Last time we saw MICA… (click for recap)
After escaping her apartment and running down the mountain in search of Stephen, Mica meets Rebekah, who takes her to Stephen. Rebekah and Stephen claim to know Mica’s secret and agree to help her escape the Unseen City before Colonel Mason finds her. They dress Mica as a Seer and head to the transport bay, where they plan to smuggle her out of the city. Mica is discovered, and Colonel Mason shows up. A fight ensues, and Mica is saved by a mysterious Seer with a Burn gun. As she, Rebekah, and the strange Seer jump aboard the transport, Rebekah, the one driving the transport, is shot with the Burn gun, and her memory erased…
Without memories and history, what’s left of someone? Isn’t that what a person is? Memories, history, decisions, and a past? And, more importantly, how are you supposed to drive a transport down a mountain when you can’t even remember learning to drive?
“Rebekah!” Mica screamed and scrambled to the front of the transport. She plucked the little yellow feather out of the woman’s large arm.
“What…” Rebekah said, looking dazed, her eyes glassy. “What’s going on?” she slowed the transport.
“No, don’t do that! Go, go, go!” Mica said and stomped Rebekah’s foot on the gas pedal. Mica had never driven a transport before, but she had seen it done plenty of times. She could probably figure it out. Probably.
“What’s happening? Where am I?” Rebekah asked again, her voice anxious and confused, and a little slurred. The Burn was always unsettling.
“Just drive. Please, I’ll explain later. Just drive.”
“I… what?” Rebekah said, but even as she questioned, she swerved to avoid a pothole.
Mica said a silent thanks. Rebekah’s memories were gone, but she was driving.
“What’s going on?” Rebekah asked. Her voice was slow but strained. Even through the fog of Calm, Mica could tell she was panicking.
“We’re, uh—watch out!” Mica yelled and reached for the wheel as they sped towards a branch across the road, but Rebekah deftly steered around it.
Mica let out a sigh. Maybe it was instinct or muscle memory that kept Rebekah driving. Either way, Mica wasn’t going to stop her.
“Good, good. Just like that. Keep… doing whatever it is you’re doing.”
And Rebekah, her knuckles white, drove.
Their flight down the mountain was red and white and falling. Mica felt like they were tumbling down the mountain past trees, rocks, water. She didn’t really pay attention to where they were going, so long as they kept going down and didn’t hit anything. The farther away they were from the Unseen City, the better.
And chaos followed, appearing out of nowhere right next to Mica.
Chaos is a screaming, shrieking child, with a flame of red hair. First here, then there. Too far away, then shockingly close and shrieking in her ear, and then gone again. Every unknown sight sent chaos skittering and screeching and set Mica’s heart thundering in her chest. Chaos is an angry child.
Their flight down the mountain from the Unseen City had her wide-eyed and grinding her teeth. She directed Rebekah, who, still under the Calm of the Burn, did as she was told and kept driving. Mica wondered what would happen when the Calm wore off, and this massive, too-large woman really started to wonder why she was driving too fast down a mountain taking directions from a girl half her size.
They didn’t see any other transports, and no one was following them. And Mica didn’t know why.
“Why aren’t they following us? Where are they?” Mica asked no one, her eyes still watching for chaos to show his friends, danger and death.
“Because Rebekah,” the Seer woman said. “And probably, Stephen.” Mica’s heart thumped. “Rebekah made sure the other Seers knew we were coming,” the Seer woman continued. “She’s always making sure everything goes according to plan, aren’t you, Becky?”
But Rebekah didn’t answer.
Mica risked taking her eyes off of the road and looked back at the Seer Woman. “She got Burned,” Mica said. “I’m sorry,” she added when the Seer woman didn’t respond. The Seer woman sat back against the transport holding her head, and Mica noticed the red on her fingers. “You’re hurt,” Mica said.
“Yes,” the Seer woman said and looked away. Blood soaked her Seer mask and covered her hand. Mica started for her, but Rebekah spoke, and the fear in her voice unnerved Mica.
“You never answered. What am I doing here?” Rebekah asked. Her knuckles white on the steering wheel. The Calm was wearing off. “Where are we going?” she asked. Pine trees and rock flashed by.
Mica struggled to find a way to soothe and quiet the large woman, her face creasing in worry against the smile and laugh lines. “You’re helping us,” Mica said. “You’re helping me. Your name is Rebekah, and you’re… a teacher of sorts. My teacher.”
“Who are you? Why am I helping you?”
“I’m Mica. I’m… you—” but she stopped. She wondered if trying to explain why they were there, and about her criminal activities, would be a good idea right now. “I was in trouble, and you helped me,” she said instead. “You got me out. Thank you.”
Rebekah shot her a glance that Mica could not decipher. “And now?”
“Now, we’re running.”
“Why can’t I remember anything?”
Mica felt her limbs go numb. “You remember how to drive, that’s a good thing.”
“Just a question,” the Seer woman asked from the back of the transport. “But is the woman who just got Burned driving the transport?”
“Does that strike you as a good idea?” the Seer woman calmly asked.
Mica turned back to Rebekah. The large woman seemed quieter than she had a few minutes ago. The lines across her face crinkled into concentration. “She’s doing fine,” Mica said. “She’s got this, don’t you?” she said.
“She’s hurt?” Rebekah asked, nodding back to the Seer woman but still staring at the road, still barreling down the mountainside.
Mica looked back. Blood soaked the Seer woman’s mask and covered her hands. “Yeah. She’s hurt.”
Rebekah nodded and blinked real slowly a couple of times as if trying to keep herself awake. “Help her,” she said. “I’ll get us down this mountain.”
And she did. Rebekah drove them down the mountain, staying on the dirt road at Mica’s direction, and soon the mountain rose behind them high into the sky and the snow-heavy clouds. As Rebekah drove, Mica moved to the back of the transport and found a medical kit to help the Seer woman. Up close, the woman was older than Mica had expected. She was probably fifty—old enough to be her grandmother. Dark ropes of black and gray hair twisted down her shoulders like ropes.
“Let me see,” Mica said, reaching for the woman’s mask.
“No, don’t take it off,” the woman said, pushing Mica’s hand away.
“I have to. You’re hurt, bleeding, and I have to bandage it up.”
“This is not the way. There a ceremony.”
“A ceremony to remove the Seer Mask to ensure that I do not break my oath.”
Mica crushed her palms over her eyes. “You’ve got to be kidding me. You do realize the situation we’re in, don’t you?”
The Seer woman nodded. “I do.”
“And you’re not going to take the stupid mask off?”
“It’s not stupid. The Seer’s sacrifice has kept our people safe for generations. I have been a Seer for over thirty years.”
“Yeah, fine, and now we’re driving straight into the Empty Places with a Burner, a girl who has no idea where we’re going or how to drive, and a woman who does know where we’re going but won’t take off her blindfold. Really?”
“I do not know how to drive, and I do not know where we are going.”
Mica shook her head. “What?”
“I do not know how to drive, and I do not know where we are going,” she said again like Mica hadn’t heard her the first time.
“I have never needed to drive as I am a Seer, and Jared had the map. Maybe he showed me, but why would he? And how am I supposed to know if he did or not?”
Mica leaned forward. “All the more reason to take off the Seer mask. I can’t do this alone. I need help.”
“This mask is my way of life.”
“Yeah, well, that won’t be for much longer when Alayla catches up to us.”
“I do not wish to break my oath,” the Seer woman said.
Mica let out a growl. “At least let me cut the damn thing some so I can bandage your head, ok? I won’t take it off your eyes, just where you need a bandage.”
The Seer woman considered this, then nodded.
“Thank you. What’s your name anyway?” Mica asked as she carefully clipped the Seer Mask.
“Hannah. And you are Mica Alderman from West Six.”
“Yeah, yeah. Everyone seems to know everything about me around here.”
“You are unique.”
Mica’s mind flicked to all the times people had stared at her, whispered about her, and pointed. “Yeah, right,” she said. “I’m bad luck from West Six, that’s what I am.”
“You are not bad luck.”
“Really? Because how many people just got Burned because of me? You were just there—you pulled the trigger yourself. Where’d you get the Burn gun anyway?” she asked, dabbing disinfectant on Hannah’s forehead. The image of the blind Seer woman holding the Burn gun had been seared forever into Mica’s mind.
Hannah hissed as the alcohol cleaned her wound. “We’re going to see if this man in the Empty Places really can restore a Burner’s memories.”
“Yeah, I know that. But why do you have a Burn gun?”
Hannah paused, waiting for Mica to understand. “What if there were no Burners around to test this man’s abilities?” Hannah asked.
Then Mica understood. “You were going to Burn someone to test him?”
“Colonel Mason wasn’t leaving anything to chance. If this man really can heal Burners, well….”
Mica pressed a clean white bandage to Hannah’s forehead and wondered just how far Alayla was willing to go. “Well, now we have a Burner, so you don’t have to Burn anyone else.”
“Yes. There is that.”
“But how will we find him?” Mica asked, clearing away the bandages and bloody gauze.
Hannah sat quietly, and Mica wondered if she was going to respond. “I do not break my oath lightly,” she finally said. “Not even for one who was my own sister.”
Mica looked back to Rebekah and finally saw the resemblance.
“She’s your sister?”
Hannah nodded. “And she would understand my hesitation.”
“Would she?” Rage, hot and burning, filled her. “Because I’m not so sure she would. She’s your sister!”
“No, not anymore.”
“Of course she is. And you’re just being selfish. All this bullshit about honoring your oath—nah. You’re just scared. That’s why you won’t take the mask off.”
“I did not say that I was not going to take off my Seer mask, Mica,” Hannah said, and Mica flinched at her tone. “I have spent my life keeping my oath to protect my city and my family, and now I must do the very thing I swore not to in order to protect them.”
“But I don’t get it—what’s the big deal about taking it off?”
Hannah rested her head back against the transport. “If I remove my Seer mask, I will no longer be a Seer. By using my sight, I give up my Seer abilities. I do not throw away a lifetime of dedication and work lightly. But, to find Perseus, I will make that sacrifice. Algol is falling. Perseus has come. Cetus will die,” she whispered and reached for her Seer mask.
Mica kept silent. She reddened with embarrassment that she had been so flippant with this woman. She was well over fifty, and Seers begin training when they are her age, younger even. Mica hadn’t really thought about this woman not using her eyes for over thirty years, and suddenly she was horrified that she would be the first person Hannah would see in three decades.
“Wait,” Mica said. “Wait, Rebekah, can you pull over?” Mica asked, going up to the large woman.
Rebekah glanced back at her. “Is she all right? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I just… can you pull over there?” Mica asked, pointing to a clump of trees off to their right. She nodded and did so. “Great, now, come back here,” Mica said.
Rebekah made her way to the back of the transport, looking intently at the tattoos on her own arms with surprise and concern.
“Sit,” Mica said, gesturing to the spot opposite Hannah.
“Are you all right?” Rebekah asked the Seer.
Hannah nodded. “Thanks to you. And thank you, Mica.”
Mica mumbled something in return and moved back towards the cab. She felt like she was intruding on a family matter, something personal and sisterly, yet she wanted to stay and watch.
Hannah reached up and removed her mask, but her eyes were still closed. The skin under the Seer mask was paler than the rest. There was a lightness around her eyes that made her seem so much younger than her fifty-odd years. She opened her eyes and blinked a few times, and Mica’s heart dropped. Hannah’s eyes were cloudy and white.
Mica had seen this before, but never this bad. No one in Nova was blind. If you’re blind, they can’t Watch you. The cloudiness over her dark eyes meant cataracts, and, from the look of it, Hannah’s were pretty bad. She wondered if Hannah could see anything at all.
“Ah. Well,” Hannah said. “That is unfortunate.”
“You’re really blind, aren’t you?” Rebekah said, leaning forward.
“Yes, apparently, I am.”
“Is that why you wore the blindfold?”
Hannah hesitated. “No, but it is now.” She reached out an open hand. “Mica, would you please give me some gauze?”
Mica found the kit and handed her a length of white.
The blind Seer held the gauze gently. “I, Hannah Segal, do solemnly swear to protect and defend this City Unseen and her people from prying eyes, malicious beings, and foreign enemies….”
She went on, intoning her oath with a solemn voice. Mica held her breath to fight back anger and rage like she could starve the emotions of oxygen and wither the boiling feelings. Rebekah only watched.
“…and look forward to a day when all citizens of this great and ancient nation can live freely without fear. I serve and protect all citizens of this great nation, whether Unseen or Novan, from tyrannical rule and unjust laws. I serve until Perseus shall come and wake the ghosts, free the slaves, and end Loraine forever,” Hannah finished and wrapped her head in white.
Mica left the transport, slamming the front door shut after her, and gulped fresh air whipping across the plains. Behind her, the mountains rose up out of nothing into purple and black skies and white clouds. It was snowing in the mountains, or it would be soon. Maybe it would snow here, too, she thought with disgust. Maybe she really was bad luck. Maybe they would all die out here in the snow, the three of them, the Burner, the blind woman, and the girl with the worst luck of all.