Hands grasped Tally's shoulders in the darkness.
"You made it!" It was David's voice.
In her surprise, Tally couldn't speak, but pulled him close, burying her face in his chest.
"Who else is with you?"
She shook her head.
"Oh," David whispered. Then his grip tightened as the cave shuddered around them. The roar of a hovercar passed slowly overhead, and Tally imagined the Specials' machines searching every crevice in the rock for signs of their prey.
Had she led them to David? That would be perfect, her final betrayal.
The low rumble of pursuit passed over them again, and David pulled her deeper into the blackness, down a long, twisting path that grew colder and darker. A stillness settled around her, damp and chill, and Tally imagined again the trainload of dead Rusties buried among the stones.
They waited in silence for what seemed like hours, holding each other, not daring to speak until long after the sounds of the cars had faded.
Finally David whispered, "What's happening back at the Smoke?
"The Specials came this morning."
"I know. I saw." He held her tighter. "I couldn't sleep, so I took my board up the mountain to watch the sunrise. They went right over me, twenty hovercars at once coming across the ridge. But what's happening now?"
"They put everyone in the rabbit pen, separating us into groups. Croy said they're going to take us all back to our cities."
"Croy? Who else did you see?"
"Shay, a couple of her friends. The Boss might have made it out. He and I made a break together."
"What about my parents?"
"I don't know." She was glad for the darkness. The fear in David's voice was painful enough. His parents had founded the Smoke, and they knew the secret of the operation. Whatever punishment awaited the other Smokies, it would be a hundred times worse for them.
"I can't believe it finally happened," he said softly.
Tally tried to think of something comforting to say. All she could see in the darkness was Dr. Cable's mocking smile.
"How did you get away?" he asked.
She pulled his hands to feel her wrists, where the plastic bracelets of the handcuffs remained. "I cut through these, got up onto the roof of the trading post, and stole Croy's hoverboard."
"With Specials guarding you?"
She bit her lip, saying nothing.
"That's amazing. My mother says they're superhuman. Their second operation augments all their muscles and rewires their nervous system. And they're so scary-looking, a lot of people just panic the first time they see one." He held her tighter. "But I should have known you would escape."
Tally closed her eyes, which made no difference in the utter darkness. She wished they could stay in there forever, never having to face what was outside. "It was just good luck."
Tally was amazed that she was lying again, already. If she had only told the truth about herself in the first place, the Smokies would have known what to do with the pendant. They could have attached it to some migratory bird, and Dr. Cable would be on her way to South America instead of in the library overseeing the destruction of the Smoke.
But Tally knew she couldn't tell the truth, not now. David would never trust her again, not after she'd destroyed his home, his family. She'd already lost Peris, Shay, and her new home. She couldn't bear to lose David as well.
And what good would a confession do now? David would be left alone, and so would she, when they most needed each other.
His hands ran across her face. "You still amaze me, Tally."
She felt herself shudder, the words twisting in her like a knife.
In that moment, Tally made a deal with herself. Eventually she would have to tell David what she had unwittingly done. Not now, but someday. When she'd made things better, fixed part of what she had destroyed, maybe then he would understand. "We'll go after them," she said. "Rescue them."
"Who? My parents?"
"They came from my city, right? So that's where they'll take them. And Shay and Croy, too. We'll rescue them all."
David laughed bitterly. "Us two? Against a bunch of Specials?"
"They won't expect us."
"But how will we find them? I've never been inside a city, but I hear they're pretty big. More than a million people."
Tally took a slow breath, once again remembering her first trip out to Dr. Cable's office. The low, dirt-colored buildings at the edge of the city, past the greenbelt and among the factories. The huge, misshapen hill nearby. "I know where they'll be."
"You what?" David pulled away from their embrace.
"I've been there. Special Circumstances headquarters."
There was a moment of silence. "I thought they were secret. Most of the kids who come out here don't even believe in them."
She went on, quietly horrified that another lie was coming into her head with such ease. "A while ago I pulled a really bad trick, the kind that gets you special attention." She rested her head against David again, glad that she couldn't see his trusting expression. "I snuck into New Pretty Town. That's where you live right after the operation, having fun all the time."
"I've heard of it. And uglies aren't allowed in, right?"
"Yeah. It's a pretty serious trick. Anyway, I wore this mask and crashed a party. They almost caught me, so I grabbed a bungee jacket."
"Like a hoverboard, but you wear it. It was invented for escaping tall buildings in a fire, but new pretties use it mostly for goofing around. So I grabbed one, pulled a fire alarm, and jumped off the roof. It freaked a lot of people out."
"Right. Shay told me the whole story on our way to the Smoke, saying you were the coolest ugly in the world," he said. "But all I was thinking was that things must bereally boring in the city."
"Yeah, I guess so."
"But you got caught? Shay didn't mention that."
The lie took form as she spoke, pulling on as many strands of truth as it could reach. "Yeah, I thought I'd gotten away, but they found my DNA or something. A few days later they took me to Special Circumstances, introduced me to this scary woman. I think she was in charge there. It was the first time I'd ever seen Specials."
"Are they really that bad up close?"
She nodded in the dark. "They're beautiful, absolutely. But in a cruel, horrible way. The first time's the worst. They only wanted to scare me, though. They warned me I'd be in big trouble if I ever got caught again. Or if I ever told anyone. That's why I never mentioned it to Shay."
"That explains a lot."
"About you. You always seemed to know how dangerous it was here in the Smoke. Somehow, you understood what the cities were really like, even before my parents told you the truth about the operation. You were the only runaway I ever met who really got it."
Tally nodded. That much was true. "I get it."
"And you still want to go back there for my parents and Shay? To risk getting caught? To risk your mind?"
A sob broke in her voice. "I have to."To make it up to you.
David held her tighter, tried to kiss her. She had to turn her face away, tears finally coming.
"Tally, you are amazing."