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Authors: Amy A. Bartol

Sea of Stars (7 page)

BOOK: Sea of Stars
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He uses the soap to write on the barrier: STRAP 84 NI TLUASSA LAIREA ADEEMALA.

Wayra leaves his post at the entrance to his cell for a moment. When he returns, he writes in soap on his wall: BAW-DA-BAW. Jax and the rest of the Cavars do the same.

I sit down on the metal cot and rest my cheek against the cool transparency of the wall.

“I have to think,” I murmur as I look around at the cell. It’s a nightmare in terms of escape. If I were to somehow break through a wall, I’d only find myself in the next cell. The only way out is through the front wall, and my nose still hurts from running into it. I glance at Giffen in the cell next to mine. He hasn’t moved yet. I wonder if he’s dead, but I see his chest rise and fall, and I know he still lives. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing, or a bad thing. On one hand, he might be able to free himself once he wakes up, but on the other hand, a free Giffen may not be healthy for me. He might decide to kill me once he figures out I’m here too. Either way, the odds are looking like I’m going to die in here.

I close my eyes for a moment, fighting despair.
What good is seeing the future if you can’t get out of its way?

When I open my eyes again, I meet Trey’s as he slouches next to me on his side of the wall. His eyes ask me questions. The first is:
What happened to you?
I shrug, and then cringe; my bruised ribs ache, making me not want to breathe. He motions for me to take off my jacket. He rises from the floor, waiting for me to do the same. Getting to my feet, I face him again. I gingerly peel off my black jacket and lay it upon the slab. I almost don’t want to look as I grasp the hem of my white top, inching it up my left side. My shirt is stiff, because it has ribbing sewn into it that pushes everything up and in, a fact that probably helped protect my ribs to a certain extent but now causes me to pause and wince, holding my breath for a second with my elbow pointed up. Finally exposing my ribs, I glance at them; they’re the color of midnight.

Trey’s reaction is pragmatic, except when his hands ball into fists. He gestures that I should wet my jacket with cold water to use it as a compress. Following his advice, I dampen the jacket and take it with me to the cot against our adjoining wall. Lying down on the metal slablike cot, I face him. He sits right next to me again against the floor, since his cot is located on his far wall.

With a lift of his chin in the direction of the hand clutching my side, his eyes ask,
How did that happen to your ribs?

I point over my shoulder to Giffen stretched out on the floor in the next cell.

He nods his head in Giffen’s direction with a raise of his eyebrow.

I shake my head and say, “He’s like me.” I point to myself. “He has gifts.” I point to my hair and say, “He’s part Alameeda.”

Trey’s eyes open wider in surprise. He lifts both hands, palms up.
What gifts?

I sigh, trying to think of a way to describe telekinesis without using words. I take the balled-up compress in my hand and rest it on my mattress, between us. I stare at it, pointing from my eyes to the compress and back again. Without looking away from the compress, I lift it up by sliding the flat of my hand underneath it, pretending I’m really levitating it with my mind.

When I look over at Trey, he mouths the word in English:
. I nod vehemently before I wince again in pain. Then I say aloud, “I think he’ll try to kill me when he wakes up. He’s gonna have to get in line, though. Minister Telek would like that honor, unless Kyon gets to me first.”

I can tell right away that Trey didn’t understand the last bit I said about Telek and Kyon. He knows English well enough, but still, reading my lips is not easy. He shakes his head and studies my mouth, waiting for me to restate what I just said. Instead, I point to the picture I just drew on the wall and say, “Kyon.”

Trey gets to his feet and starts pacing back and forth in front of me. He makes a stabbing gesture to his chest, and then points at the drawing.

I sit up on my cot. “I know! I did stab him,” I reply with the same sort of frustration, “but he’s still coming. In a few hours he’ll be healed by a priestess—they’re like a menagerie of misfit toys at his beck and call—and they have a space station! Did you know they have a space station? Please tell me you guys have a space station too!”

It’s clear that Trey didn’t catch what I said, but he seems to accept the fact that Kyon will be responsible for the attack.

Trey points up to the ceiling, mouthing the words,
What happened?

“Oh, you want to know how my interview went with Minister Telek?” I tap my chin with my finger. “Hmm, how do I put this? Not good.” I look away from him for a second before I look back and say sheepishly, “I poisoned him.”

Trey gives me the did-I-hear-that-right expression and mouths the words,
You poisoned him?

I nod my head.

He looks confused as he asks silently,

I point to my brain. “Remember when we were running—” I use my two fingers to show running “—through the Forest of O?”

Trey nods.

“Remember when I—” I point to myself, and then pantomime picking a flower “—picked a znou and put it behind my ear?”

Trey nods again.

“Well.” I pantomime pulling the flower from behind my ear and plucking petals from it. “He had znous in his office, so I took the petals.” I pantomime picking up a kafcan pot and pouring some kafcan into a cup. I pretend to take a sip from the cup before dropping the petals into the cup and holding the imaginary cup out to Trey. “I poisoned his kafcan with those flowers.” Understanding crosses his face, but he doesn’t seem upset with the fact that I just tried to kill a minister of his house. He looks impressed by it.

Telek killed Minister Vallen?
Trey asks me by mouthing the words, but I know he’s just affirming what he’s known since the pyramid-shaped Automated Fugitive Apprehender came crashing through his window this morning.

I nod. “He’s going to say that we did it.” I gesture to him, and then to myself.

Telek’s not dead?
Trey mouths.

I shake my head no. “This is so bad, Trey,” I whisper, looking around my cell, my eyes filling up with tears. I choke them back. The last thing he needs is for me to cry. “I didn’t kill him. I know I should’ve, but I—”

A hiss sounds from above my head. Startled, I look up, noticing small holes forming in the ceiling. The first few drops of cold water that land on me feel good. I hold up my hand as the water rains down harder, wetting everything in the room. I get to my feet again, standing in the center of my cell. I glance at Trey who has a grim expression from his dry cell.

Water runs in streams over my face and drips from my chin. It soaks my white shirt, turning it translucent. I pull on my wet, black jacket. Soon my black pants are soaked as well. My body temperature drops, causing me to shiver violently. From my perch on my cot, I watch water collect on the floor. The grate in the center of the cell must be plugged. It doesn’t take me long to figure out what’s happening. It’s psychological warfare. They’re not going to interrogate me right away, but that doesn’t mean they can’t start the torture.

At first, I’m just cold, but after a few hours, the drops of water are needles piercing me. I crawl under my bunk to get some relief, but soon the water is too cold to sit in. Trembling, I rise up from under the cot, glancing at Trey. His face is rigid with anger. He uses his fingers, pointing to his eyes in a look-at-me gesture. He starts doing jumping jacks. I follow his lead, although I can only raise my right arm above my head. Every movement is painful to my ribs, but it’s better than freezing to death. In no time, I’m warm enough to stop shivering.

I give Trey a small smile to reassure him that I’m okay. Abruptly, the water turns to mist, losing some of its ferocity. I sigh in relief as my smile broadens, but only for a moment. The small holes in the ceiling disappear as they widen to become several large holes. A moment later, cold water pours from them, turning into a deluge. The standing water that was at my ankles lifts to my knees. Moving to the cot attached to the wall, I stand upon it, but within minutes the level rises to its edge then spills over it, lapping at my feet.

I glance at Trey’s handsome face. He can’t hide the fear in his violet eyes. “They don’t know I can’t swim, do they?”

He shakes his head no. He turns and runs to the front of his cell, pounding on it with his fist. I can tell he’s shouting, but there’s not even a whisper of it in my cell; I hear nothing above the roar of water. Wayra and Jax start beating their fists against the fronts of their translucent barriers. They can see what’s happening to me. They know what it means.

As the frigid water rises and swallows my legs, I try to find something buoyant enough to hold me above the water. There’s nothing that floats in this cell—not even me. The fabric of my clothing isn’t the right type to hold air in, so I can’t make a flotation device. Panting in shallow breaths, my heart is demanding more oxygen as adrenaline circulates through my system. I grasp my side with my hand, trying to control the pain as I attempt to breathe deeper. When the water is to my chin, I tilt my head up and look at the ceiling. Water still runs in unchecked, making choppy waves on the surface. Whimpers of fear escape from my lips; I remember what it feels like to almost drown. I’m not looking forward to repeating it. My palms reach out and flatten against the wall that connects my cell to Trey’s. I try to climb it, forcing my knees up against it, but my hands keep sliding down it.

I take a deep breath and hold it; the water closes around my mouth, and then my nose. With my eyes wide, I straighten my neck; my head submerges beneath the water. A mass of blond hair waves in my face. Trey’s blurry image presses near me, so close and yet a world away. I see him move away from the wall to his sink. He kicks it, smashing his booted foot on top of it until it breaks away from the wall. Water spouts up as he grasps the metal basin in his hands and rips it out of its housing. With a shovel-like piece of it in his hands, Trey runs at the wall between us, slamming the metal basin into it. Cracks form and spider along the surface. He winds back and strikes it again. The noise is a soft clang in the water. Liquid streams out from the cracks he makes, but its not enough to allow the level to go down so that I can breathe. I try to hold my breath as he winds back and hits it once more, but I choke in water. Reflexively, I cough, gasping, taking liquid into my lungs. It burns with an unnatural fire. In my confusion, I see Brigadets scrambling en masse outside our cells. They have their weapons drawn on Trey’s side, but on my side they’re rushing to the control panel. My lungs ache and my head feels like it will explode at any moment, but I can’t feel my extremities; my fingers are numb and cold.

I wish I could get away.

I slip out of my body and become a spectator to the events swirling around me. I stand behind the soldiers on the catwalk. The sweat on Trey’s brow slides over the curved lines of the tribal tattoo on his neck. Thick veins stand out on his strong arms as he continues to pound the barrier with relentless strokes. With one more swing, Trey shatters the dense wall that lies between him and my limp body. My figure spills into his cell in a tidal wave. Trey catches me in his arms, wiping the mass of blond hair back from my face. He pinches my nose and breathes into my mouth. Soldiers open both of our cells. The water rushes out of the opening and falls through the metal grated floor outside.

Trey lays me on the floor. My face is pale and my eyes are closed. He begins chest compressions on me, but a few soldiers grab him, hauling him back from my supine form. As Trey struggles against them, savagely fighting them off in an attempt to get back to me, he renders a few of them unconscious.

One soldier doesn’t join the fray; instead, he kneels down beside my unconscious body. With quick fingers, he pulls something from a shiny silver case. It squirms and slithers, wrapping itself around his hand like a live, albino snake. It’s not an animal; it’s a twisting, writhing snake-bot. The body is smooth and alabaster with pink lights within it that glow with an eerie fire. The Brigadet holds the gruesome sidewinder near my mouth. The snake-bot opens its wide mouth, clamping onto my face and ratcheting my mouth open. From inside the skin of the snake-bot, a smaller, slimy, internal snake-bot slides out into my mouth and down my esophagus. In the next moment, water is pumping out of the other end of the snake-bot like a primed hose.

Standing outside of my body, I’m a horrified observer of the scene. I know it’s me, but it doesn’t feel like it’s happening to me. I feel nothing. I feel numb. Next to me, a feminine voice says, “How do you like my gift?”

I turn my head; the lovely, fragile image of the Bee stares back at me. I recognize her as the priestess who blasted me out of the space station earlier today. Attired in the same waspish dress as before, she’s now made of light and air—a perfectly formed nightmare.

“How did you find me?” I ask her.

She doesn’t answer my question but says, “I was told you can’t swim.” She watches as the medic inside the cell works to revive me. That battle doesn’t seem to be going well. Nothing he does is bringing me back to consciousness.

“You did this,” I accuse her. “You filled my cell with water.”

She gives me a maleficent smile.

The soldier extracts the snake-bot from my esophagus, looking grim. My lips and my skin have a bluish tint that bodes ill for me. When Trey notices the medic sit back on his heels and shake his head, he loses his mind. He becomes a raging bull, tackling the soldier next to him. Trey wrestles the tricked-out freston from the startled hand of the soldier. Turning the weapon on my limp form upon the floor, Trey fires a yellow lightning electro-pulse straight at my heart. The electricity flows through me, and then through the water as well, shocking everyone in the room. My spirit self is ripped from the air and stuffed back into my body with the force of a cyclone.

BOOK: Sea of Stars
13.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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