Kara took another breath, all but vibrating with restrained energy. “For the past three years,” she said, fractionally slower than before, “We’ve been working to break kids out of reeducation.”
“You and the others who made it out?” That did explain some things. The news had reported three escapes from reeducation centers in as many months, and had blamed them all on Becca’s resistance. Becca had attributed the escapes to luck and the limited security budget of the still-new reeducation program, but a group working from the outside made a lot more sense.
Kara shook her head. “They’re all living normal lives under false identities. It’s just me and Micah now.”
The name shot through Becca’s body like lightning.
Micah is alive.
Becca and Micah’s relationship had been doomed from the start. First she had pushed him away, afraid he would discover her secret life. Then she had used him to get information for the resistance. And then, when he had seen the truth about the reeducation program’s brutality and had chosen to escape with Kara and the others rather than continue to work for Internal, she had lost him to the same cause that had kept them apart for so long.
The two of them had never stood a chance.
But that didn’t mean she didn’t miss him.
She used to think about him in her quiet moments, back when she could still allow herself to indulge those feelings. She still dreamed about him sometimes – when her dreams weren’t filled with the deaths of everyone who depended on her.
“We’ve gotten almost a hundred kids out in total,” Kara was saying. “Nothing like what you did in 117, but it’s still a hundred kids who aren’t being brainwashed and tortured and—” With a shudder, she cut herself off. “Anyway, they’re free now. I managed to get them new identities through someone my dad used to know. Some of them are living with my dad’s contacts. I’ve lost track of the rest, but I tried to teach them all how to take care of themselves.”
Becca wrenched her thoughts back to Kara. Away from the ache in her heart, away from the useless remnants of her old self. “Why were you trying to break into the administrative offices?”
“They knew someone was getting kids out of the centers.” Kara’s voice sped up again. She tapped her fingers in a rapid rhythm against her leg. “After what happened with 117, they thought it was your group. They set a trap. Left behind little hints about—about something they thought you’d want to know. We took the bait. It led us to Processing 102, and when we broke in, they were waiting for us.”
Her fingers stopped moving. Her throat worked as she swallowed.
Becca had worked as an evaluator for the past three years. Internal had taught her how to recognize evasion, how to spot hidden motives, how to see through anyone’s defenses. But even without her years of training and practice, she would have sensed Kara’s hesitation.
There was something else. Something Kara didn’t want to say.
“What is it?” Becca prompted.
Kara’s earlier words had raced from her lips almost faster than she could speak. But now her answer came slowly, each word dropping heavily to the ground.
“They have Micah.”
Micah. Captured. In the hands of Internal.
Micah cuffed to a chair in an interrogation room. Micah screaming out a confession. Micah’s body lying limp on the floor in a pool of blood.
It doesn’t matter. He doesn’t matter anymore.
Kara must have seen Becca’s reaction on her face. “But it’s okay,” said Kara, too vehemently. “It’s going to be okay. I have a plan.” She started pacing again. “We can get him out. I heard where they were taking him. He’s close by—they’re keeping him in an auxiliary cell in Enforcement 260 overnight.”
“Enforcement 260? Why not 117?” While every enforcement center included a few holding cells, Enforcers almost always took prisoners straight to a processing center. They only used the auxiliary Enforcement cells under special circumstances.
What was special about Micah’s circumstances?
Kara hesitated. The expression on her face was the same look countless Internal employees had worn in Becca’s evaluation room, trying in vain to hide their dissident sympathies.
Becca’s voice grew sharp. “What aren’t you telling me?”
“It doesn’t matter right now.” Kara turned away to make another circuit of the living room. “What matters is that if we don’t get to him before that transport does, we won’t be able to find him again. Not in time to save him.”
Kara was right. It didn’t matter.
None of it mattered.
Becca knew what she had to do.
The images wouldn’t leave her mind. Micah facedown on the cold concrete floor of a processing cell, bruised and broken. Micah on TV confessing his crimes to the country before his execution.
It doesn’t matter.
“Enforcement,” Kara prompted. “How many people do you have in there? What clearances?”
“I can’t help you.” Each word was a betrayal, a knife shoved deep into Micah’s body. “Sending my people into Enforcement 260 is too much of a risk. Especially with everything that’s going on. I can’t put the resistance in danger to save one person.”
Not even Micah.
Especially not Micah.
He meant something to the old Becca… but he had no value to the resistance. And the old Becca didn’t – couldn’t – exist anymore. The resistance was all that mattered now.
“You’re saying you won’t do it.” Kara’s voice wavered with disbelief. “You won’t save him.”
“I can’t save him.” Would Kara understand? Could she understand, if she had never felt the weight of this kind of responsibility?
It doesn’t matter.
“But you two were…” Kara’s voice trailed off.
As if Becca needed the reminder of what her choice meant. “The resistance comes first. I won’t put my people at risk.”
“He used to talk about you all the time. About how he wanted to find you again someday and—”
“Don’t,” Becca snapped. “I gave you my answer. I can’t help you.” She looked away. Softened her voice. “I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry,” Kara repeated flatly. “I came here because I don’t have anywhere else to go. There’s no one else. If you don’t help me, he’s gone. Nothing will stop Internal from—” Her voice broke.
Nothing Becca could say would make this easier. So she said nothing.
Kara wasn’t pacing anymore. She held herself rigid, quivering with tension, like a bomb about to explode.
But the explosion didn’t come.
The emotion disappeared from Kara’s face as if it had never existed. Her trembling muscles stilled. When she spoke, her voice was as cold as if she were addressing a stranger.
“I have information you need,” she said. “The hints they gave us to lure us in—they were real. Internal has a new plan for bringing down your resistance. And if you don’t do something to stop them, they’ll succeed.”
Becca blinked at this sudden peace offering delivered in hostile tones. “What is it?”
Kara crossed her arms in front of her chest.
“Help me get Micah out,” she said, “and I’ll tell you everything.”
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