THREE DAYS LATER.
2340 HOURS. 52°F.
HURRICANE EVONIA HAS FINALLY STARTED TO CALM DOWN, but the rain, heavy and cold, continues to fall in sheets. The sky churns in fury. Under all this, Barstow’s lone JumboTron broadcasts the news coming in from Los Angeles.
EVACUATIONS MANDATED FOR:
ZEIN, GRIFFITH, WINTER, FOREST.
ALL LOS ANGELES CIVILIANS REQUIRED TO
SEEK SHELTER AT FIVE STORIES OR HIGHER.
QUARANTINE LIFTED ON LAKE AND
REPUBLIC WINS DECISIVE VICTORY AGAINST
COLONIES IN MADISON, DAKOTA.
LOS ANGELES DECLARES OFFICIAL HUNT
FOR PATRIOT REBELS.
DANIEL ALTAN WING EXECUTED DEC. 26
BY FIRING SQUAD.
Of course the Republic would announce Day’s execution as successful. Even though Day and I know otherwise. Already the whispers have started in the streets and dark alleys, rumors that Day has cheated death once again. And that a young Republic soldier helped him do it. The whispers stay whispers, because no one wants to draw the Republic’s attention. And yet. They continue to talk.
Barstow, quieter than inner Los Angeles, is still overcrowded with people. But the police here aren’t looking for us in the way police back in the metropolis must be. Railroad city. Ramshackle buildings. A good place for Day and me to take shelter. I wish Ollie could have come with us too. If only Commander Jameson hadn’t pushed the execution up a day. I’d wanted to let him out of the apartment, hide him in an alley and then go back for him. But it’s too late now. What will they do to him? The thought of Ollie barking at soldiers breaking into my apartment, scared and alone, brings a lump to my throat. He’s the only piece of Metias I have left.
Now Day and I struggle through the rain back to the rail yard where we’re going to set up camp. I’m careful to stay in the shadows, even on this stormy night. Day keeps a cap on and tilted low over his eyes. I’ve tucked my hair inside the collar of my shirt and wrapped an old scarf—now soggy—across the lower half of my face. It’s about all we can do for disguises right now. Old railway cars litter the junkyard, faded and rusted with age. Twenty-six of them, if you count a caboose missing half of one side, all Union Pacific. I have to lean into the wind to keep from falling over. The rain stings my wounded shoulder. Neither of us says a word.
When we finally reach an empty car (a 450 square foot covered hopper car with two sliding doors—one rusted shut, the other halfway open; must be designed for carrying dry bulk freight) safely tucked behind three others at the back of the yard, we climb inside and settle down in a corner. Surprisingly clean. Warm enough. Most important, dry.
Day takes off his cap and wrings out his hair. I can tell his leg is hurting. “Good to know the flood warnings are still in place.”
I nod. “Should be hard for any patrol to track us in this weather.” I pause to watch him. Even now, exhausted and messy and completely soaked, he has an untamed sort of grace about him.
“What?” He stops wringing out his hair.
I shrug. “You look terrible.”
This makes Day smile a little—but it disappears as fast as it comes. Guilt takes its place. I fall silent. Can’t blame him.
“As soon as the rain stops,” he says, “I want to head out toward Vegas. I want to find Tess and make sure she’s safe with the Patriots before we move on to the warfront to find Eden. I can’t just leave her behind. I have to know that she’s better off with them than with us.” It’s as if he’s trying to convince me that this is the right thing to do. “You don’t have to come. Take a different route to the warfront and meet me there. We can decide on a rendezvous point. Better just to risk one of us than both.”
I want to tell Day that it’s insane to head for a military city like Vegas. But I don’t. All I can picture are Tess’s hunched, narrow shoulders and wide eyes. He’s already lost his mother. His brother. He can’t lose Tess, too. “You should go find her,” I say. “You don’t have to talk me into it. But I’m coming with you.”
Day scowls. “No, you’re not.”
“You need backup. Be reasonable. If something happens to you along the way, how will I know you’re in trouble?”
Day looks at me. Even in this darkness, I can’t take my eyes off him. The rain has washed his face clean. The scarlet stripe of blood in his hair is gone. Only a few bruises remain. He looks like an angel, if a broken one.
I look away, embarrassed. “I just don’t want you to go alone.”
Day sighs. “All right. We’ll go to the warfront and find out where Eden is, then cross the border. The Colonies will probably welcome us—maybe even help us.”
The Colonies. Not long ago they had seemed like the greatest enemy in the world. “Okay.”
Day leans toward me. He reaches up to touch my face. I can tell it still hurts him to use his fingers, and his nails are dark with dried blood. “You’re brilliant,” he says. “But you’re a fool to stay with someone like me.”
I close my eyes at the touch of his hand. “Then we’re both fools.”
Day pulls me to him. He kisses me before I can say more. His mouth feels warm and soft, and when he kisses me harder, I wrap my arm around his neck and kiss him back. In this moment, I don’t care about the pain in my shoulder. I don’t care if soldiers find us in this railway car and drag us away. I don’t want to be anywhere else. I just want to be here, safe against Day’s body, wrapped in his tight embrace.