Last time we saw MICA… (click for recap)
Mica learns that Aaron will be leaving the Unseen City, and leaving her in Colonel Mason’s care. Terrified that under the Colonel’s ever-watchful eye, she will never escape and find her family, Mica decides to find the one person who can help her: Stephen. Mica escapes the apartment and makes her way down the mountain to find Stephen before he too is sent away, but encounters Seers. She manages to make her way to the Seer Complex without being caught but runs into Rebekah. After a very one-sided fight, Rebekah takes Mica to Stephen, where Mica reveals to Stephen that the Unseen are experimenting on a Watcher. Rebekah confirms this and tells Stephen that Colonel Mason, his surrogate mother, is not who she claims. She also tells him that his parents were not who he thought. Stephen and Rebekah discuss getting Mica out of the Unseen and tell her they know her secret…
Mica guffawed and stared at Rebekah and Stephen. It was the only possible response. “Yeah, what secret?” she asked, but her heart was pounding and racing and too hot. Her mind spun to figure out what they meant.
Did they mean the stealing? She hadn’t stolen much, but she knew the Unseen were too hard on criminals. Would they really lock her away or worse over some pens and pieces of silverware and socks? Probably worse by the way they were looking at her.
“We know what you are,” Rebekah said, stepping forward.
Thief. The word blazed in her mind.
“No,” Mica said, stepping back from them, from Stephen’s masked eyes and Rebekah’s watchful gaze. “No, I’m not… I’m not a….”
“You are, and you know it,” Rebekah said sharply.
“What, you’re saying they’re going to kill me for it?” she asked, but it was too impossible. Capital punishment for theft? Would they go that far?
“Yes. It may come to that,” Rebekah said.
Mica wanted to laugh, but she only made a strangled sound. This was ridiculous! “No. No, no, no. Why would they do that? It’s not a big deal,” she said.
“Mica, of course, it’s a big deal. We take our safety very seriously, and we protect ourselves from all threats,” Rebekah said.
“But I’m not a threat!” she said, flustered and frustrated and getting hotter and hotter. She wasn’t a threat, she was just nobody from West Six. She didn’t want to die. “So what do I do?” she asked.
“We have to get you out of here,” Rebekah said.
Stephen nodded. “Before they send you to Alayla. If she finds out…”
Mica went cold.
“We’ll get you out tomorrow,” Rebekah said. “There’s a transport leaving that we can get you on. It’s going north, but that’s better than nothing.”
“Tomorrow’s too late,” Mica said. “Alayla wants to keep an eye on me herself. Since Aaron left, I’m supposed to stay with her.”
“Wait, what?” Stephen’s head snapped up. “Aaron left? Where?”
“Ah. I understand now. Then we can’t wait. Alayla must know,” Rebekah said more to herself than anyone else. “You have to go tonight. Now even.”
Mica heard her, but her eyes were on Stephen. “You didn’t know?” she asked. If Stephen didn’t know that Aaron had left, that meant Aaron hadn’t said good-bye.
“Where did he go?” Stephen asked, turning his unseeing gaze to Mica.
“Windrose. He left this morning. He’s going to find some doctor. I heard him talking about it once.”
Rebekah swore under her breath.
“Do you know what’s going on?” Stephen asked.
“Yes. If he’s going now, despite the heightened security, it means this is their last chance to get to Henderson. Aaron wants to finish his parents’ work, whatever is was, and Dr. Henderson can help him do that.”
Stephen shook his head. “But Aaron doesn’t even have a…”
Rebekah and Stephen looked at her. Mica shifted from foot to foot.
“You think he knows?” Stephen asked.
“About Mica? Probably. If Alayla knows, then Aaron definitely knows. That would explain why soldiers are looking for her.”
“You know about that?” Mica asked, and knew she wore a stupidly surprised expression.
Rebekah smiled, and it was a wolfish smile, but not an unpleasant expression on her. “How do you think you made it here safely? Those Seers aren’t stupid. And you swore loud enough to wake the dead in front of Obed.”
Mica flushed. Of course, she didn’t make it past the Seers. They had let her escape, let her get to the Seer Complex. “But… if they knew I was there, why didn’t they turn me in to Alayla?”
“Because the Seers do not work for Alayla. Really, Stephen, I thought you taught her better than that.”
“Seers are not under Alayla’s command,” Stephen said to Mica, but his mouth was turned down and angry.
“Then, they work for you?” Mica asked, looking at Rebekah.
Rebekah raised an eyebrow. “Me? You mean in the rebellion? I am part of it, but I do not lead the rebellion. But we have other things to worry about. Aaron has been trying to recruit this doctor for a long time, so the timing might just be a coincidence. It might not have anything to do with Mica at all, and Alayla’s just angry that she escaped and isn’t following orders.”
Mica didn’t understand how it mattered. If Aaron knew she’d been stealing, he hadn’t done anything about it until now. But what did that have to do with his work with the Watchers?
“I’m leaving with Hannah on the next transport, we’re a part of the team going to find the man healing Burners. I will take Mica,” Rebekah said, staring hard at Mica.
“No. We can’t let her go back to Nova,” Stephen said. “It’s too dangerous.”
“And who else would you trust her with here? Alayla? A squad of soldiers? It’s too late. She has to go now.”
Stephen’s neck went red. “But sending her back to Nova… it’s just….”
“It’s all right, I’ll be fine. Besides, I have to go,” Mica said. “Nova is where my family is.”
Rebekah raised an eyebrow. “And who knows, maybe this man healing Burners really will save us all, and then there will be nothing to worry about. Maybe he really is Perseus.”
Stephen pulled a bundle out of a drawer. “Here, put this on,” Stephen said, handing her a Seer uniform: a dark jumpsuit, boots, a robe, and a Seer mask. All just like his.
Mica ran her hands over the smooth fabric. Rebekah had gone to make preparations for their escape, so they were alone in the little apartment.
“What, here?” she asked, noting the lack of privacy.
“Who, me?” he asked with mock offense. “I promise I won’t peek,” he said, pointing to his Seer mask, but turned the chair around and sat facing the door anyway.
Mica dressed quickly, glancing back to make sure Stephen’s back remained turned. The jumpsuit was a higher quality material than her field hand jumpsuit: stronger, softer, a deep, and well-dyed black. The boots were too big, and she preferred her heavy brown leather ones to the lightweight Seer boots that almost seemed like slippers. So she pulled on her own work boots instead.
Stephen kept his back turned the whole time. Even when she had finished and said so, he remained still. Uneasy, she came close.
“Stephen?” she asked.
He jumped, surprised. “Sorry. I guess I was just… thinking.” His mouth turned down, and she wondered if he might cry.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
He hesitated. “They weren’t who I thought they were.”
“And Aaron. And Alayla.”
She sat down on the floor next to him and looked up into his masked face. “Yeah. I know what that’s like.”
“Peter. I thought he was one thing, but it turns out he was related to the person I hate most. Well, after Loraine, of course. I can’t decide if people change, or if they were never really who you thought they were to begin with.”
“I can’t believe I thought they were good when they were doing something so… very wrong. The whole time I knew them, I thought they were helping keep us safe. But they were experimenting on people. Killing them.”
“They were good to you,” Mica said, not sure what else to say, and trying to work the problem out herself. “Doesn’t that count for something? Do the bad things they did outweigh the good?”
“Does it matter? Can the good things ever outweigh the bad? They still did the bad things as well as the good.”
Mica wove a braid in an escaped strand of hair and wondered. Peter had known his father was responsible for her mother’s death, and he didn’t say anything. Could all the delicately painted pictures, the vibrant tattoos, and all the good he had done for her ever make up for her mother’s death? Maybe, maybe not. She wondered if it was even a fair question. Peter was Peter, and she had loved him. She hoped to one day find him and get some answers.
The door opened, and Rebekah entered. She looked at Mica, and Mica scooted away from Stephen with a scowl and a flush. “We’re ready,” Rebekah said. She held dark fabric out with one hand and gestured to her face with the other. “Mask.”
Mica looked down at the black fabric, and her stomach dropped. This was the part she was dreading, wrapping her eyes in darkness.
“Do I have to?” she asked.
“Yes,” Rebekah said and gestured again. “Now.”
Mica took the mask and gripped it tight, then she wrapped it round and round her head and over her eyes and tied it tight. Purple darkness enveloped her.
“There, happy?” she said.
“What? It’s kind of hard to see,” she said, moving her hands in front of her in an exaggerated motion.
“Oh, stop whining. Here, take it. Your staff,” Rebekah said. She took Mica’s hand and wrapped it around a wooden staff. “Remember the plan?”
And with that, the three of them left the apartment and headed for the transport bay. It was disorienting, walking and tapping her staff like she’d seen Stephen do a million times, trying to decipher the staff’s sounds and smacks against the ground beneath her feet. In the Seer complex, the floors guided her. Bumps to tell when the floor would slope and waves to tell where corridors intersected and paths in a variety of textures to guide the unseeing to their destinations. And sounds were sharper, brighter. She felt like every other sense was heightened, but she couldn’t understand what her body was sensing without her eyes to interpret it.
Rebekah led them out of the Seer complex and into the cold shadow under the mountain that plunged Mica into even deeper darkness. No one stopped them, no one questioned them, but Mica’s pulse throbbed in her ear. If they were caught, Alayla would probably experiment on her just for fun. Maybe she would even turn her over as guinea pig to this doctor Aaron was saving. Who knew what a strange and mad doctor from Windrose would do to her.
“Ah, Rebekah,” a voice said.
“Jared,” Rebekah said, her voice calm and even as still water. Rebekah had told her about Jared. He was the Guide on the small team of Seers sent to discover if this strange man in the Empty Places was really healing Burners or not. “Is she here?” Rebekah asked.
“Waiting in the transport. And this is?” Jared said.
“This is my recruit, Kara. I’ve been training her personally, and she’s coming with us.”
“I wasn’t informed of this,” Jared said, his voice deep and purple, like sour blackberries.
“Am I not head of Training? Am I not your superior? What do you care what I do?”
“Colonel Mason hand-selected this team, yourself included, and she put me in charge.”
“You are guiding the Seer. I do not answer to you, and the Seers do not answer to Colonel Mason.”
Jared laughed, and a chill ran up and down Mica’s spine like a tiny roach scurrying up and down a beanpole. “I see,” Jared said. “And it seems your recruit is wearing the wrong boots.”
Mica caught her breath, and she felt Stephen and Rebekah tense and shift.
A door opened somewhere behind them. Footsteps.
“Ah, I see you’re all ready,” Colonel Mason said, her voice echoing across the stone-cold transport bay. “Nice of you to join us, Mica,” she said. “We’ve been looking for you.”
“Mica, run!” Rebekah yelled and shoved her as the chaos erupted.
She fell into Stephen, who shoved her to the ground. Her knees slammed into the concrete, her bones jolting, but she managed not to fall all the way down and smash her face. She ripped at her Seer scarf wrapped around her head. It caught on her ear and wrenched the cartilage as she pulled the mask off.
The sudden too blue-white lights of the transport bay blinded her for a moment, and everything seemed too sharp and yet blurred at the same time. She took in her surroundings in a blink.
Rebekah ran for Colonel Mason, her tonfa up and ready for a fight. Alayla spun two short sticks in her hands and readied herself. Behind the Colonel followed a small squad of six soldiers in black carrying Seer staffs and sai and tonfas, and they all looked at Mica.
Stephen fought with Jared, a large man twice Stephen’s size with a too-small head and too long a torso. He reminded Mica of a weasel. Stephen turned, keeping the weasel man back from Mica with his staff, the metal prongs exposed and threatening a nasty shock.
“Mica, go!” Stephen yelled. His staff whirled as he struck Jared’s knee with the blunt end. The man crumpled for a moment with a roar of pain, but then lunged and slammed into Stephen. They hit the concrete, and Stephen’s staff flew out of his hand. Behind them, Colonel Mason and Rebekah fought in a flurry of movement almost too fast for Mica to follow. The sharp crack of short stick against tonfa like little cracks of thunder echoed in the transport bay and made her teeth hurt.
Mica jumped to her feet and ran for the transport, her robe flapping and flying behind her like bat wings. But she wasn’t fast enough. Two soldiers appeared on either side of her, weapons raised and ready to strike. She skidded to a stop with a yelp, and they circled her. She was trapped.
Stephen cried out, and she turned. He lay on the ground holding his leg. The weasel man hovered above him with Stephen’s own staff raised high, ready to strike.
“No!” Mica cried out.
The soldiers moved for her, hands outstretched.
A muffled pop like a gunshot sounded.
Mica blinked, then turned.
A Seer, masked in black, stood outside the transport, head down, hair like a hundred fraying ropes. She pointed a small shining gun at the soldiers.
The soldier closest to Mica stood confused, still. The others stared at him in horror. Then Mica saw the little yellow feather in his shoulder and realized what had happened: the Seer woman had a Burn gun.
“They come with me now,” she said.
For a moment, no one moved. All Mica could hear was the blood pounding in her hears.
“Stop her!” the Colonel shrieked, her voice feral and high and hoarse, shattering the silence, and everyone began moving again. The turned warily to the Seer with the Burn gun. Alayla ran for Mica, her dark eyes wide, her short sticks spinning. Rebekah followed. Stephen rolled as Jared slammed the staff onto the cement where Stephen’s face had been. Sparks flickered from the end of the staff.
Mica saw it all in a flash and jumped when a voice called to her, “this way, child.” It was the Seer woman with the gun. “Into the transport.”
She got to her feet and ran for the open transport past the Seer woman. Two more pops of the Burn gun, Mica ducked instinctively and hit the ground. When she got back to her feet and looked back, two of the soldiers grabbed at the little feathers in their arms and screamed.
Rebekah grappled hand to hand with Jared. Stephen had Colonel Mason’s ankle in his hand as she sprawled on the cement and screamed at him. Mica could see the hesitation in her as she tried to free herself from Stephen’s grip without hurting him—her son.
“Do you know how to drive one of these?” the strange Seer woman asked calmly, pulling Mica’s attention back to the transport. She’s appeared so suddenly at her side that Mica hadn’t heard her approach.
“Do you know how to drive a transport? I can’t, as you know.”
“Oh. No, I don’t.”
“Hm. Well,” the Seer woman said. She lifted her arm and fired the Burn gun again without turning her head towards the oncoming soldiers. They swatted frantically at the Burn darts, then stilled. “I guess we really will need Rebekah then, won’t we?” she said. “Into the back. Becky! Stephen!”
Mica climbed in and helped the Seer woman up into the transport.
“Go!” Stephen screamed. He held a short stick around Colonel Mason’s neck. Jared staggered to his feet, clutching his head as blood pushed from in between his fingers. Rebekah ran for the transport and dove into the driver’s seat. The transport lurched forward, but Jared was running, blood pouring down his pointed face. They weren’t fast enough.
Mica screamed and reached for the Burn gun just as Jared jumped inside the transport and slammed the Seer woman, his Seer, aside. Her head smashed into something metal, and she crumpled. Mica froze as he reached for the Seer woman. But he wasn’t reaching for the woman: he was reaching for the Burn gun.
“Rebekah!” Mica shrieked.
Rebekah turned, but her eyes went wide as the Burn dart stuck in her neck, and her eyes glazed.
The Seer woman kicked Jared in the gut, and he dropped the Burn gun, sending it spinning to Mica’s feet.
Then he went still. A Burn dart in his chest.
Mica didn’t even realize she’d picked up the Burn gun and pulled the trigger. The weapon felt strange in her hand, too big and too heavy.
The weasel man stilled, and Mica shoved him out the back of the transport. He rolled harmlessly to the ground and rolled. He slowed, stopped, and sat calmly staring.
Mica could see Stephen and Colonel Mason fading into the distance. He dropped the short stick and let the Colonel run for the transport, but it was too late: they were already out of the transport bay and tearing down the mountainside towards the Empty Places. But they were slowing down.