At the mention of John’s name, I lean forward and instantly regret it as my leg explodes in pain. “Tell me where my brothers are.”
Her expression doesn’t change. She doesn’t even blink. “They are no longer your concern.” She takes several steps forward. Here she has a precise, deliberate step, unmistakably that of the Republic’s elite. She disguised it surprisingly well on the streets. It only makes me angrier.
“Here’s how it works, Mr. Wing. I’m going to ask you a question, and you’re going to give me an answer. Let’s start with an easy one. How old are you?”
I meet her gaze. “I should’ve never saved you from that Skiz fight. I should’ve left you to die.”
The Girl looks down, then takes a gun from her belt and strikes me hard across the face. For a second I can see only blinding white light—the taste of blood fills my mouth. I hear something click, then feel cold metal against my temple. “Wrong answer. Let me be clear. You give me another wrong answer, and I’ll make sure you can hear your brother John’s screams all the way from here. You give me a third wrong answer, and your little brother, Eden, can share the same fate.”
John and Eden. At least they’re both still alive. Then I realize from the hollow sound of her gun’s click that her gun isn’t loaded. Apparently she just wants to slap me around with it.
The Girl doesn’t move her gun away. “How old are you?”
“That’s better.” The Girl lowers her gun a little. “Time for a few confessions. Were you responsible for the break-in at the Arcadia bank?”
The ten-second place. “Yes.”
“Then you must be responsible for stealing sixteen thousand five hundred Notes from there as well.”
“You got that right.”
“Were you responsible for vandalizing the Department of Intra-Defense two years ago, and destroying the engines of two warfront airships?”
“Did you set fire to a series of ten F-472 fighter jets parked at the Burbank air force base right before they were to head out to the warfront?”
“I’m kinda proud of that one.”
“Did you assault a cadet standing guard at the edge of the Alta sector’s quarantine zone?”
“I tied him up and delivered food to some quarantined families. Bite me.”
The Girl rattles off a few more past offenses, some of which I can barely remember. Then she names one more crime, my latest.
“Were you responsible for the death of a city patrol captain during a raid on the Los Angeles Central Hospital? Did you steal medical supplies and break into floor three?”
I lift my chin. “The captain named Metias.”
She gives me a cold look. “That’s right. My brother.”
So. This is why she hunted me down. I take a deep breath. “Your brother. I didn’t kill him—I couldn’t have. Unlike you trigger-happy trots, I don’t kill people.”
The Girl doesn’t reply. We stare at each other for a moment. I feel a weird tinge of sympathy and quickly push it away. I can’t feel sorry for a Republic agent.
She motions to one of the soldiers standing by the door. “The prisoner in 6822. Cut off his fingers.”
I lunge forward, but my cuffs and the chair stop me. My leg explodes with pain. I’m not used to someone having this much power over me. “Yes, I was responsible for breaking in!” I shout. “But I’m serious when I tell you that I didn’t kill him. I admit I hurt him—yes—I had to escape, and he tried to stop me. But there’s no way my knife throw could’ve caused anything more than a wounded shoulder. Please—I’ll answer your questions. I’ve given you answers to everything so far.”
The Girl looks at me again. “Nothing more than a wounded shoulder? Maybe you should’ve double-checked.” There’s a deep fury in her eyes, something that takes me aback. I try to remember the night I faced Metias—the moment when he had his gun pointed at me and I had my knife pointed at him. I’d thrown it at him . . . it had hit his shoulder. I’m sure of it.
After a moment, she tells the soldier to hold off. “According to the Republic’s databases,” she goes on, “Daniel Altan Wing died five years ago from smallpox, in one of our labor camps.”
I snort at that. Labor camps. Yeah, right, and the Elector is fairly elected every term, too. This girl either actually believes all that made-up crap or she’s taunting me. An old memory struggles to resurface—a needle injected into one of my eyes, a cold metal gurney and an overhead light—but it vanishes as soon as it comes.
“Daniel is dead,” I reply. “I left him behind a long time ago.”
“That was when you began your little crime spree on the streets, I guess. Five years. Seems like you grew used to getting away with things. Started letting your guard down, didn’t you? Did you ever work for anybody? Did anybody ever work for you? Were you ever affiliated with the Patriots?”
I shake my head. A terrifying question emerges in my mind, a question I’m too afraid to bring up. What has she done with Tess?
“No. They’ve tried recruiting me before, but I prefer to work alone.”
“How did you escape the labor camps? How did you end up terrorizing Los Angeles when you should’ve been working for the Republic?”
So this is what the Republic thinks of children who fail the Trial. “What does it matter? I’m here now.”