Crossed, Page 26Ally Condie
“Ky,” I say.
“The name of your other companion, the girl who is here now?”
“I don’t know.” It’s true of Indie and partly true of Ky. What was his last name when he first lived out here?
“Did you find any indication as to where the people in the canyon might have gone?”
“What made you decide to join the Rising?”
“I don’t believe in the Society anymore after what I’ve seen.”
“That’s enough for now,” the man says kindly, shutting off the miniport. “We’ll access your Society data and find out more about where we should put you.”
“You have the Society’s data?” I ask in surprise. “Out here?”
He smiles. “Yes. We’ve found that while our interpretations differ, the data itself is often sound. Please wait here.”
In the little cement room with walls completely devoid of life, I think back to the Cavern. It had Society all over it—in the tubes, the organization, the camouflaged doors. Even the crack in its shell, the secret way in that Hunter knew, was like the cracks in the Society. I remember other things. Dust in the corners of the Cavern. A tiny blue light on the floor burned out and unreplaced. Did the Society become overwhelmed by everything they have tried to control and hold?
I picture a hand letting go, drawing back, severing a connection, and the Rising coming in instead.
In the end, the Society decided that I wasn’t worth saving. My Official thought I was an interesting experiment; she let me skip taking the red tablet and she watched to see what I would do. I mistook her individual interest for Societal interest—I thought they might think I was special—but it seems I was never anything more to them than an excellent sorter, an interesting research project that could be dropped at any time because I would ultimately do what they predicted.
What will the Rising think of me? Will they view my data differently? They must. They have more of it. They know about my dash into the Carving and my rush down the river. I’ve taken so many risks. I have changed. I feel it, know it.
The door opens.
“Cassia,” the man says. “We’ve analyzed your information.”
“Yes?” Where will they send me?
“We’ve decided that you would best serve the Rising from within the Society.”
Please state your full name.”
Which one should I use? “Ky Markham,” I say.
“How did you learn about the Rising?”
“My father was a member of it a long time ago,” I say.
“How did you find us?”
“From a map we found in the Carving.”
I hope the answers I’m giving are the same ones she did. As always, we didn’t have enough time. But I trust my instincts and I trust hers too.
“Was there anyone traveling with you other than the two girls who came earlier on the boat?”
“No,” I say. This one is easy. I knew Cassia will never give Eli and Hunter away, no matter how much she wants to believe in the Rising.
The man leans back. His voice is even. “Now,” he says. “Ky Markham. Tell us more about why you came to join us.”
After I finish talking, the man thanks me and leaves me alone for a few moments. When he comes back, he stands in the doorway. “Ky Markham.”
“Congratulations,” he says. “You’ve been assigned to work as an air-ship pilot and sent to Camas Province to train. You’ll be of great service to the Rising.”
“Thank you,” I say.
“You’ll leave late tonight,” he says, pushing open the door. “Eat and sleep in the main hall with the others.” He points to one of the larger tents. “We’ve been using this camp to gather escapees like yourself. In fact, one of the girls you came with should still be here.”
I thank him again and make my way to the hall as quickly as I can. When I push open the flap of the tent, she is the first person I see.
I’m not surprised—I thought this might happen—but my heart sinks anyway. I’d hoped to see Cassia again here. Now.
I will see her again.
Indie sits alone. When she sees me she moves down the table so there’s room at the end for me. I walk past the others eating and talking about their assignments. There are a few girls but most are boys and all of us are young and wearing black plainclothes. A line for the food has formed at the opposite end of the tent, but I want to talk to Indie. I sit next to her and ask the first, most important thing. “Where’s Cassia?”
“They sent her back to the Society,” Indie says. “Central. Where Xander’s going.” She spears a piece of meat with her fork. “Cassia still doesn’t know his secret, does she?”
“She will soon enough,” I say. “He’ll tell her.”
“I know,” Indie says.
“How did they send her back?” I ask.
“By air ship,” Indie says. “They sent her to a work camp where someone in the Rising can filter people back into Society on the long-distance train. She’s likely all the way to Central by now.” Indie leans forward. “She’ll be fine. The Rising checked her data. The Society hadn’t even Reclassified her yet.”
I nod, leaning back. Cassia must be disappointed. I know she hoped to stay in the Rising.
“How was the run?” Indie asks.
“Long,” I say. “How about the river?”
“Poisoned,” she says.
I start laughing then, relieved to have confirmation that Cassia is all right from someone who—in spite of everything—I trust. Indie joins in too. “We made it,” I say. “None of us died.”
“Cassia and I fell in the river,” Indie says, “but we seem to be fine.”
“Thanks to the rain,” I say.
“And my piloting,” she says.
“They’ll notice you, Indie,” I say. “You’re going to matter to them. Be careful.”
“I still think you’re going to run,” I tell her.
“I might surprise you,” she says.
“You have before,” I say. “What’s your work assignment?”
“They haven’t told me yet,” she says, “but we leave tonight. Do you know your assignment? Where are you going?”
“Camas.” If I had to go someplace away from Cassia, Camas is where I’d pick. Vick’s home. I might be able to find out what happened to Laney. “Apparently my data indicates that I would be a good pilot, too.”
Indie’s eyes widen.
“Of an air ship,” I clarify. “Nothing more.”
Indie looks at me for a moment. “Well,” she says, and I think I hear a teasing note in her voice. “Anyone can fly an air ship. You point them in the right direction and push a button. It’s not like running a river. Even someone as young as Eli could—” She stops, the playful tone in her voice gone, and she puts down her fork.
“I miss him too,” I say quietly. I put my hand on top of hers and hold tight for a moment.
“I never told them about him,” Indie whispers. “Or Hunter.”
“Neither did I,” I say.
I stand up. I’m hungry, but there’s something else I have to do. “Do you know when you leave tonight?” I ask Indie.
She shakes her head.
“I’ll try to come back in time to say good-bye,” I tell her.
“Cassia didn’t want to leave here without saying good-bye to you,” Indie says. “You know that.”
“She told me to tell you she knows she’ll see you again,” Indie says. “And that she loves you.”
“Thank you,” I say to Indie.
I keep waiting for the Society to fly in low and black over the lake but they haven’t yet. Though I know it wasn’t what Cass
ia wanted, part of me can’t help but be glad that she is out of the thick of the Rising.
To blend in here, it’s all right to show urgency and purpose. Others walk to board air ships and pack tents. I don’t have to keep my eyes down. I nod to others as we pass.
One thing I can’t show, however, is despair. So even as the night comes and I still haven’t found what I want, I don’t allow any of the worry to show on my face.
And then at last I see someone who looks right.
Cassia doesn’t like to sort people. I’m all too good at it and I worry I’ll grow to like it too much. It’s a talent I share with my father. And all it takes is a misstep or two for that talent to become a liability instead of an asset.
Still, I have to chance it. I want Cassia to have those papers to trade back in the Society. She might need them.
“Hello,” I say. The man isn’t packed yet—someone who has to stay to the end, but low-ranking enough that he’s not in attendance at the late-night meetings with those deciding strategy. Someone who manages to be useful and under the radar and competent but not excellent. It’s the perfect position for someone who is—or used to be—an Archivist.
“Hello,” he answers, his expression blank and polite, his voice pleasant.
“I’d like to hear the Glorious History of the Rising,” I say.
He’s quick to hide his surprise, but not quick enough. And he’s smart. He knows that I saw. “I’m no longer an Archivist,” he says. “I’m with the Rising. I don’t trade anymore.”
“You do now,” I say.
He’s not quite strong enough to resist. “What do you have?” he asks, glancing around almost imperceptibly.
“Papers from within the Carving,” I tell him. I think I see a gleam in his eyes. “They’re near here. I’ll tell you how to find them, and then I need you to get them to a girl named Cassia Reyes who was just sent to Central.”
“And my fee?”
“You choose,” I say. It’s the payment no real trader or Archivist can resist. “Any selection you want is yours. But I know what’s there and I’ll find out if you take more than one. I’ll turn you in to the Rising.”
“Archivists are honest in trade,” he says. “It’s part of our code.”
“I know,” I say. “But you told me you weren’t an Archivist anymore.”
He smiles then. “It never leaves you.”
Meeting with the Archivist made me late, and I don’t get to say good-bye to Indie. The air ship she’s on begins to pull away in the last of the sun’s light and as it does, I see that it’s been burned and damaged along the bottom. As though it tried to land somewhere that people didn’t want it to be and was fired upon. The decoys’ guns couldn’t do this.
I think I’m looking at one of the air ships the farmers tried to take down.
“What happened to that ship?” I ask someone standing next to me.
“I don’t know,” he says. “It went out a few nights ago and came back like that.” He shrugs. “You’re new, aren’t you? You’ll learn that you only know your own assignments. It’s safer that way if we get caught.”
That’s true enough. And even if I’m right about how that ship got burned, it could be something other than what I think. Maybe the Rising came down to try to help the farmers, but they thought the ships were Society.
The only way I can figure out how this works is by living on the inside.
The Archivist finds me a few hours later, just as I’m about to leave. I step away from my group to talk to him for a moment. “It’s confirmed,” he says. “She’s back in Central. I’ll effect the trade immediately.”
“Good,” I say. She’s safe. They said they’d take her back and they did. One point for the Rising. “Did you have any trouble?”
“None at all,” he says. Then he hands me the stone I carved with scales. “It seemed like a pity to leave this behind, even though I know you can’t take it with you,” he says. The Rising has similar rules to the Society: No unnecessary possessions. “It’s a beautiful piece of work.”
“Thank you,” I say.
“Not many people know how to make letters like this,” he says.
“Letters?’ I ask. Then I see what he means. I thought I carved ripples. Or waves. Or scales. But what it really looks like is the letter C, over and over again. I put the rock on the ground to mark another place where we’ve both been.
“Do you ever teach anyone?” he asks.
“Only once,” I say.
It’s early spring now, and the ice at the edge of the lake in Central has begun to melt. Sometimes, while I walk to work, I look out over the railing at the air-train stop to see the gray water in the distance and the red branches of bushes along the shore. I like stopping here. Seeing the wind wave the water and brush the branches reminds me that, before I returned to the Society, I crossed over rivers and canyons.
But the view isn’t the only reason I pause. The Archivist I deal with sends someone to watch me and to see how long I wait. It’s how she knows whether or not I’ve agreed to the terms for our next trade. If I stop here until the next train comes in—a few more seconds now—it means that I accept. Over the past few months, the Archivists have come to know me as someone who doesn’t trade often, but who does have items of value.
I turn from the lake and see the city, its white buildings and masses of dark-clothed people moving through. It reminds me of going into the Carving, and again I remember that time long ago in the Borough when I saw the diagram of my body, those rivers of blood and those strong white bones.
Just before the next train slides in, I start down the steps.
The price is too low. I don’t accept. Yet.
I didn’t know I had this inside of me.
I didn’t know all that was inside of him, either. I thought I did, but people run deep and complicated like rivers, hold their shape and are carved upon like stone.
He sent me a message. Such a thing is difficult to do, but he is in the Rising, and he has managed the impossible before. The message tells me where I can meet him. After I’ve finished work, I will go to see him.
Tonight. I will see him tonight.
A pattern of frost blooms along the cement wall at the bottom of the stairs. It looks, I imagine, as if someone painted stars or flowers at exactly the right time; a momentary capture of beauty that will too soon vanish.
This book would not exist without the kindness and support of:
Scott, my husband, and our three wonderful boys (Cal, E, and True);
my parents, Robert and Arlene Braithwaite; my brother, Nic; my sisters, Elaine and Hope; and my grandmother Alice Todd Braithwaite;
my cousins Caitlin Jolley, Lizzie Jolley, Andrea Hatch, and my aunt Elaine Jolley;
writer and reader friends Ann Dee Ellis, Josie Lee, Lisa Mangum, Rob Wells, Becca Wilhite, Brook Andreoli, Emily Dunford, Jana Hay, Lindsay and Justin Hepworth, Brooke Hoopes, Kayla Nelson, Abby Parcell, Libby Parr, and Heather Smith;
Jodi Reamer and the wonderful team at Writers House—Alec Shane, Cecilia de la Campa, and Chelsey Heller;
Julie Strauss-Gabel and the fantastic group at Dutton/ Penguin—Theresa Evangelista, Anna Jarzab, Liza Kaplan, Rosanne Lauer, Casey McIntyre, Shanta Newlin, Irene Vandervoort, and Don Weisberg;
and all the readers, always.
the author of the Matched Trilogy, was born and raised in southern Utah, a beautiful part of the world that served as the inspiration for the setting of CROSSED. Before becoming a writer, she taught high school English in Utah and upstate New York. She lives with her husband and three children outside of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Visit her online at www.allycondie.com.
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