Last time we saw MICA… (click for recap)
Last time we saw MICA… Mica, Hannah, and Rebekah make it to the Haven in the Empty Places and find the man healing Burners. To Mica’s shock: it’s Ben. The siblings reunite, but their reunion is bittersweet when Mica learns that Anda and Cassandra are Burned, and Peter is dead. Hannah tells Ben she is from the Unseen and wants to make an alliance with him. She also tells him that he has a spy from the Unseen City in his camp and that Rebekah, who has been Burned, is the only one who can tell him who it is. Ben restores Rebekah’s memories, but after he does so, he collapses…
As Ben collapsed to the ground, all Mica could see were falling stars.
She reached for Ben as he collapsed, but Gabe got to him first and helped him back onto his mat. “You all right?” she asked as she sat beside him, ready to help but not sure how.
“Yes,” Ben said. “I’m fine. It just takes a lot out of me.”
“What do you mean?” She looked closer. Ben’s hands shook. His face shown with sweat. He rubbed at his bad leg like it ached.
“There is a cost to restoring memories,” he said. New lines, thin and light but still there, traced his mouth.
Mica looked to Rebekah. The same lines traced her mouth.
“Gabe,” Ben said before Mica could question him further.
“Yes, Perseus?” Gabe said, and a sudden rush of embarrassment and anger filled Mica like soot and ash. How could he call him Perseus? How could Ben let them call him Perseus?
“You think you can help Rebekah find this spy?”
At his words, Gabe’s face darkened. “We will find him.”
“Good. Find him. Tonight. And post Zeke outside my tent.”
Gabe nodded and turned to Rebekah. “Well, Tall One,” he said. “I am glad to see that Perseus has restored your memories.”
“He has indeed, Little Man,” she said with something like laughter in her voice. Gabe led her and Hannah into the night and the cold.
Finally, alone with Ben, Mica let her thoughts run, but her emotions soon outpaced her thoughts and logic. “What are you doing?” she asked, both needing an answer and terrified of what it might be.
Ben looked up at her, a bottle of water halfway to his lips. “What?”
“You’re pretending to be Perseus….” she couldn’t even form the thought into a question.
Ben put the cap back on his water bottle. “Why do you think I’m doing this?”
“Uh, I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking. It’s ridiculous. You shouldn’t pretend to be some mythological savior,” she said, and the venom in her voice caught her off guard.
Ben didn’t even flinch. “You think I’m pretending?”
She wanted to laugh, she wanted to cry, she wanted to punch him in the face and scream at him. “Come on, Ben, we both know you’re pretending. You’re not Perseus. You’re Ben from West Six, not some long-awaited and prophesied… I don’t know, savior!”
“Then how do you explain my being able to restore people’s memories? You’ve seen me do it twice already.”
Mica waved her arms like she was batting away flies. “I don’t know. It’s a good trick. How did you do it? I mean… it’s not even supposed to be possible, but… just explain it to me.”
“It’s not a trick, Mica. You saw Rebekah. Her memories are back.”
Her cheeks burned. “But Ben, just think about what you’re saying. You’re saying that you can restore memories and that you’re Perseus,” she said. Although she couldn’t deny the former, she could damn well deny the latter.
“Yes. Because both those things are true.”
“But they’re not. What would Peter say?” she asked, hoping the memory of their friend might knock some sense into him.
“Peter was the first to believe that I am Perseus, even before I did.”
And Ben told her how he left to find Anda in the village, but he had been too late. Anda had been Burned, and Cassandra too. And then he too had been Burned. But Peter saved him. He told her about Seth and seeing the prophet’s memories in his own mind, and understanding Peter as a son and a friend. That was the moment when his mind opened, and his abilities unlocked. Apparently.
“Wait, wait,” Mica said. “You’re telling me that the Unseen Prophet gave you this ability?”
“No. It’s a… I’ve been trying to figure it out, and as best I can figure, it’s an emotional trigger. Sort of. Something about that moment in Seth’s mind, when he was full of hope that he could save his son, triggered something in me, and my abilities… woke up.”
“Let’s just think about this. You’re telling me that the Unseen Prophet came to you, gave you his memory, and that it somehow triggered something in you that made you able to restore memories?”
“Ben! That’s nuts! How do you even give memories away? They’re not… fruit.”
“I don’t know how exactly. But Seth gave me his memories of Peter. Something about them… I don’t know, changed me. It was the… feeling of them.”
Something rushing and flickering in her chest, something sad, filled the broken bits of her heart and burned. Talking about Peter made her angry.
“It was love. And hope.”
Mica rolled her eyes so hard it hurt. “That’s stupid.”
“No. It’s not. When Seth looked at Peter, he felt such love and hope, like I had never experienced before.”
Mica turned away. She had loved Peter, and now he was dead. “What happened to him?” she whispered.
Ben told her how they had been trapped in a West Nine factory. How Peter had tried to get him out, but they had been separated. The sirens. The smell of metal and antiseptic. The gunshot. Peter falling to the ground. His last words.
“Mica,” Ben said, but his voice dropped low and dark and delicate. “Peter told me not to trust the Unseen. He didn’t want me to go there because he was afraid of something. Someone.”
The air around her went cold, and fear slipped into the tent on silent, slippered feet. Could Peter have known about the Watcher? Who didn’t he trust? Alayla? Aaron? Someone else?
“You vouch for Hannah and Rebekah?” Ben asked. “You think they’re trustworthy?”
“And Stephen,” Mica said. Not that it mattered, but if they ever found him, she wanted Ben to know that Stephen was good. “Stephen helped me. He was the best thing about the Unseen.” She could feel her cheeks going red even in the sudden cold. She turned to see Ben watching her with a small smile peeking out through his beard. “What?” Mica asked, embarrassed.
“Well, we won’t forget about Stephen.”
Mica thought about all the people she wouldn’t be forgetting and all the people she couldn’t leave behind. Shame wouldn’t let her. “So now what?” she asked. “How do we find Anda and Cassandra?”
The confusion in Ben’s eyes surprised her. “Mica, I can’t go find them.”
“Sure, you can. You can leave someone else in charge for a while so that you can go find your sister and your girlfriend.”
“No, Mica, I really can’t,” he said and shifted. “I have to stay here. There are people here who need me.”
For a moment, Mica could feel every single cell in her body throbbing. “Anda needs you.”
“It’s not just about Anda, it’s about everyone else now.”
“But Anda’s part of everyone. And she’s your sister. She’s out there somewhere. Burned. She needs us, and when we find her, you have to be there to restore her memories. Since, apparently, that’s a thing you do now.”
Ben scratched at his beard. “I want to save them, don’t you think I do? It kills me not to go find them right now. But look around. This camp is just the beginning. We are saving more and more Burned every day, and if we can get the Unseen’s help, we can overthrow Loraine. Then there won’t be any Burnings ever again. That’s what we’re doing here, we’re looking to the future. I can’t afford to keep looking to the past.”
“But they’re not the past,” Mica said through gritted teeth. “They’re now.”
“I can’t go,” Ben said, his voice hard and strong. She’d never heard such iron in him before, and it startled her. He was no longer the boy struggling with a crutch, he was something more, but she didn’t know what.
“It’s not about Anda, is it? Not really. It’s about you,” she said. “You won’t go because you’re playing Perseus.”
But the flap of the tent lifted, and Gabe entered dragging a young man with a long braid. He threw the man at Ben’s feet. The young man scrabbled to his knees, his muscles tense and ready for a fight, his fists tight. There was nothing unusual about him, this lanky, sullen-looking boy with a weak chin. He would make a good spy—able to blend and disappear, unnoticed and forgotten, as soon as seen. His eyes were vacant, but not the usual hazy, apathetic stare. There was something manufactured about his glassy eyes, and Mica knew that his mind was going faster and faster and taking in every detail and movement and crack he might slip into and use to his advantage.
“We got him,” Gabe said. “Rebekah recognized him among the new recruits waiting for dinner.”
Rebekah and Hannah entered and stood over the young man. “He claimed to have escaped a field after hearing about a Haven in the Empty Places,” Rebekah said. “It’s lies. His name is Leon. He works for Alayla. I trained him myself,” she said and nudged him with her toe.
“Well?” Ben said to Leon. “Is this true?”
“We also found these among his things,” Gabe said and handed Ben a pack. Inside, Mica saw a small case with needles and bright blue and yellow serums.
“What is this?” Ben asked.
Leon said nothing, but his eyes suddenly got too bright.
“He was planning to drug you and kidnap you,” Rebekah said. “Yellow to test your abilities if there weren’t any Burners around. Blue to knock you out. No doubt there’s a transport not far, maybe even another spy hidden to help get you out, isn’t that right, Leon? That’s what we were going to do.”
Leon smiled, and it was a knowing, tight-lipped smile. Mica wondered that he was so young. He barely seemed older than herself and Ben. She wondered how the Unseen trained their spies and soldiers so quickly.
Couldn’t they have trained her?
“You’re here for Perseus,” Rebekah said and nudged Leon again with her toe. “Why else would you be here?”
“What should we do with him?” Gabe asked.
Ben leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, his hands clasped in front of him. “Is this true? Were you planning to kidnap me?”
Leon looked up at Ben, the haze and vacancy gone. “You could save this country,” he said, and his voice was higher and lighter than Mica expected, like a girl’s voice.
Ben only looked at him. “Your people were going to study me. Is that right?”
“Yes. And you should let them. I saw you restore memories, and I believe that you are Perseus. You came, just as prophesied, and you will save us all. But you will do that first in a lab curing the Burn, and then with an army behind you, not cold and hungry in tents with broken farmers and old men. You can save us all. And you deserve more than this,” he added, and his voice was sincere and honest. He meant what he said.
The tent went quiet. Mica flushed and shifted, uncomfortable with this young man’s adoration of her brother. Her gimpy, grumpy older brother who couldn’t even save his own family, this man believed he was going to save the entire country.
“That’s the truth,” Leon said. “I swear.”
“I believe you,” Ben said.
Leon seemed to relax. He sat back on his heels and let out a breath.
“Well, what are you going to do with him? You can’t just let him go,” Rebekah said. There was bitterness in her eyes, and disgust pulled at her mouth.
“I agree with Rebekah,” Gabe said. “He’s infiltrated our camp. He cannot leave.”
Ben stared at Leon for a long moment before he spoke. Mica wondered what sort of punishment he was devising for this strange young man.
“No,” Ben finally said. “That’s exactly what he will do. Leon will leave, and he will return to the Unseen with a message.”
But this did not please Leon. He shook his head, his eyes going wide, his face going pale. “No, please, don’t make me go back there,” Leon said. “For failing my mission, they’ll… they’ll kill me.”
“But you didn’t fail,” Ben said, getting to his feet. “You won’t be returning to the Unseen City alone. I’ll be going with you.”