Day smiles as if he’s about to fall asleep. “I thought you were a smart one. . . .”
Apparently the sun hasn’t baked all the attitude out of him yet. “And what about your old knee injury?”
“Your Republic gave me that, too. On the same night I got my eye imperfection.”
“Why would the Republic give you those wounds, Day? Why would they want to damage someone who got a perfect fifteen hundred on his Trial score?”
This catches Day’s attention. “What are you talking about? I failed my Trial.”
He doesn’t know either. Of course he wouldn’t. I lower my voice to a whisper. “No, you didn’t. You got a perfect score.”
“Is this some kind of trick?” Day moves his injured leg a little and tenses up in pain. “A perfect score . . . hah. I don’t know anyone who’s ever gotten a fifteen hundred.”
I cross my arms. “I did.”
He raises an eyebrow at me. “You did? You’re the prodigy with the perfect score?”
“Yes.” I nod at him. “And apparently, so were you.”
Day rolls his eyes and looks away again. “That’s ridiculous.”
I shrug. “Believe what you want.”
“Doesn’t make sense. Shouldn’t I be in your position? Isn’t that the point of your precious Trial?” Day looks like he wants to stop, hesitates, and then continues. “They injected something into one of my eyes that stung like wasp poison. They also cut up my knee. With a scalpel. Then they force-fed me some kind of medicine, and the next thing I knew . . . I was lying in a hospital basement with a bunch of other corpses. But I wasn’t dead.” He laughs again. It sounds so weak. “Great birthday.”
They experimented on him. Probably for the military. This I’m sure of now, and the thought makes me ill. They were taking tiny tissue samples from his knee, as well as from his heart and his eye. His knee: they must have wanted to study his unusual physical abilities, his speed and agility. His eye: maybe it wasn’t an injection but an extraction, something to test why his vision was so sharp. His heart: they fed him medicine to see how low his heart rate could go, and they were probably disappointed when his heart temporarily stopped. That’s when they thought he died. The reasoning for all this becomes clear—they wanted to develop those tissue samples into something, I don’t know what—pills, contact lenses, whatever could improve our soldiers, to make them run faster, see better, think smarter, or endure harsher conditions.
All this flies through my head in a second before I can stop it. No way. This isn’t in line with Republic values. Why waste a prodigy in this way?
Unless they saw something dangerous in him. Some defiant spark, the same rebellious spirit he has now. Something that made them think it’d be riskier to educate him than to sacrifice his possible contributions to society. Last year thirty-eight kids scored higher than 1400.
Maybe the Republic would want to make this one disappear.
But Day is not just any prodigy. He has a perfect score. What was it that made them nervous?
“Can I ask you a question now?” Day asks. “Is it my turn?”
“Yes.” I look over to the elevator, where a new rotation of guards has just arrived. I hold up a hand and tell them to stay where they are. “You can ask.”
“I want to know why they took Eden away. The plague. I know you rich folks have it easy—new plague vaccinations every year and whatever meds you need. But haven’t you wondered . . . haven’t you wondered why it never goes away? Or why it comes back so regularly?”
My eyes dart back to him. “What are you trying to say?”
Day manages to focus his eyes on me. “What I’m trying to say . . . yesterday, when they dragged me out of my cell, I saw that red zero stamped on some double doors in Batalla Hall. I’ve seen numbers like it in Lake too. Why would they show up in the poor sectors? What are they doing out there—what are they pumping into the sectors?”
I narrow my eyes. “You think the Republic is intentionally poisoning people? Day, you’re on dangerous ground.”
But Day doesn’t stop. Instead his voice takes on a more urgent tone. “That’s why they wanted Eden, right?” he whispers. “To see the results of their mutated plague virus? Why else?”
“They want to prevent whatever new disease he’s spreading.”
Day laughs, but again it makes him cough. “No. They’re using him. They’re using him.” His voice grows quiet. “They’re using him. . . .” His eyes grow heavy. The strain of talking has worn him out.
“You’re delirious,” I reply. But while Thomas’s touch now repulses me, I feel no revulsion toward Day. I should. But the feeling just doesn’t come. “A lie like that is treason against the Republic. Besides, why would Congress authorize such a thing?”
Day doesn’t take his eyes off me. And just when I think he’s lost the strength to respond, his voice comes out sounding even more insistent. “Think about it this way. How do they know what vaccines to give you every year? They always work. Don’t you find it strange that they can make vaccines that match the new plague that’s popped up? How can they predict which vaccine they’ll need?”
I sit back on my heels. I’ve never questioned the annual vaccinations we’re required to have—never had any reason to doubt them. And why should I? My father used to work behind those double doors, working hard to find new ways to combat the plague. No. I can’t listen to this anymore. I pluck my cape from the ground and tuck it under my arm.