Last time we saw MICA… (click for recap)
Mica and Paul head out to find Hermes, the contact who can help them find Anda. Ben stays hidden in the antique store since the entire city is looking for a young man with a limp. In a forest in the center of the city, Paul and Mica wait for Hermes. A boy arrives. Mica isn’t expecting the Unseen’s contact to be a twelve-year-old boy. Mica asks for help, and Hermes laughs. He doesn’t do charity work. Finally, Paul helps broker a deal between the two, and Hermes agrees to look for Anda. Mica also asks him to look into the West 9 factory incident—the incident that resulted in Peter’s death. Hermes agrees, but everything has a price. Mica promises to give him the thing he wants most: information about Perseus…
Promises didn’t mean much to Mica because people always broke them. But she’d made a promise to Hermes, and she intended to keep it. She just wondered what it would cost her.
Paul led Mica back to the antique shop and opened the hatch to the hidden tomb of a room. She descended the stairs, Paul shut her into the dusty room, and the strange gauzy feeling from the Blind stretched over Mica’s mind once again.
“Well?” Ben asked, pushing himself up from the floor to sit with his back against the wall. His eyes were ringed with red like he hadn’t slept in weeks, although she knew he’d just woken up.
“He’ll do it,” Mica said. Exhaustion throbbed throughout her body, and she lay back on a thick blanket on the floor and closed her eyes. She should tell him what she’d promised the boy, but it had been too long since Mica had slept, and the stillness felt so good it ached her limbs and made her want to cry.
In moments she drifted off into a dreamless sleep, the kind of sleep that held nothing but void and warmth and the gentle thud of her heartbeat. But the sound of footsteps broke through her dreamlessness far too soon, the hatch opened, and light streamed into the storage room. Mica blinked and wondered if Hermes was back already and if she had slept all day and through the night.
“Someone wants to see you two,” Paul said from up above them. He stepped aside as a figure climbed down the stairs. Mica didn’t need to see his face to know who it was: Aaron. She groaned and rolled over, her face inches from the wall, hoping to delay the inevitable.
“At least you’re not dead,” Aaron said.
She winced at the calmness of his voice, rolled over, and sat up. “Glad to see you’re not dead either.” She rubbed at her eyes.
“Aaron,” Ben said in greeting.
But Aaron completely ignored him. “What have you done?” he asked Mic.
“Nothing. I’m just trying to find Anda.”
“Hermes is good at his job, but he’s still a child. Asking him to risk everything like this is insane—and Paul let you.”
“Hey! That was the deal. He helps us find Anda, and we get you and your friends out of the city. Or have you forgotten that you’re stuck here?” Mica said.
Aaron blinked. “Doesn’t matter. It will be a miracle if Hermes makes it back tomorrow. He’ll probably get caught in the Burner database and give us all up. He’s still only a child.”
“Yeah, you mentioned that. But he’s what, twelve? He’ll be fine. He does this all the time, doesn’t he?”
“This isn’t about Hermes. How did you escape the Unseen?”
“Rebekah. And Hannah, and… Stephen.”
“Stephen. Of course. But why? They wouldn’t risk the city for you.”
Mica hesitated and flicked her lighter on and off. “They told me what you were going to do to me.”
“What, send you north?”
“No. You were never going to send me north. I know that now. You were going to have me killed, so I ran.”
Aaron blinked. “What are you talking about?”
“You were going to turn me in for stealing and have me killed. Unseen justice is swift. Rebekah and Stephen told me, and then they helped me escape.”
Aaron looked at her hard, and she grew uncomfortable. “They said that? They said those words exactly?”
“What, you think I’m making this up?” she said, but now she wasn’t sure if they had said those exact words or not.
“No. I don’t. We were never going to kill you for petty theft, but that’s not the point right now. By leaving the Unseen and coming here, you put all of us in danger. You. Don’t you realize that if they catch you, they find us? Paul, me, even Hermes. Then they find out where the Unseen City is, and then they destroy it.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t exactly give a shit about your city right now.”
“But don’t you realize how selfish you’ve been?” Aaron asked softly. “By coming here, you risked an entire city. Thousands of innocent people. My friends, my family. Stephen.”
Mica felt her cheeks burning at Stephen’s name. She felt Ben’s eyes on her. “You wouldn’t help me find her,” she said to Aaron.
“So this is my fault? I did nothing but help you. I kept you safe. I gave you a chance. I convinced Alayla to send you away safely rather than—” but he stopped, cutting his own words off.
“Rather than what?” Mica asked. She knew the answer but wanted to make him say it. Rather than kill her.
“But you just had to come here, and for what? I told you—your sister has been Burned, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You have to face reality, Mica. Anda is gone. No one can help her even if you did find her.”
“Ben can help her,” Mica snapped. “Ben will get her memories back.” She wasn’t thinking. She just said it. She felt her face flush as she looked to Ben, but Ben was watching Aaron closely.
Aaron didn’t even look at him. “Really? Ben? And how is he going to do that?”
“Remember the man restoring Burners?” she pointed to Ben. So what if he knew? Ben was planning on letting the Unseen poke him and prod him anyway, not that she’d let that happen.
“Ben is the man healing Burners?” Aaron asked, looking from her to Ben and back again.
“I escaped with Rebekah and Hannah. They were going to spy on Ben, kidnap him, and take him back to the Unseen. We found your spy, the other one you sent, and made a deal with Ben.”
“You can study me after we find Anda,” Ben said.
“Ah,” was all Aaron said. He took his glasses off and wiped them clean. “That’s assuming you can heal the Burning.”
“I saw him do it,” Mica said, but her jaw ached when she did, almost like she forced her body to say the words.
Aaron set his glasses back on his nose and looked at Ben. “No one comes back from the Burnings.”
“Don’t say that!” Mica said. She stood up, her hands clenched at her side.
“It’s improbable, probably impossible, that Ben is actually healing Burners. You have to know that.”
“I saw it.”
“Are you sure? Are you sure it wasn’t a fake? A scam? A trick?”
“No, he’s not that smart. I saw him restore them right before my eyes. He restored Rebekah’s memories, and he’s going to restore Anda’s.” She couldn’t bring herself to say, because he’s Perseus. That was too impossible.
“We’ve been working on a way to cure the Burners for over two hundred years. It’s not possible. Anda is gone.”
Mica felt it like a match sparking in the dark, but not catching, a momentary light. The Blind in the corner sparked and flickered, then the light in the machine went out. Mica felt something trickling down her face. She dabbed her fingers to her lip—her hand came away bloody. Blood dripped from her nose.
“Dammit, Mica,” Ben limped over and dug through the supply box in the corner.
Mica stared at her red hand. Little drops of blood ran over her fingers, the pale swirls of her fingerprints stood out under the warm blood.
Aaron went to the Blind and examined it. “It’s overloaded. I can fix this, but it will take a minute.” He began work on the blind, as Ben pulled out a clean cloth and gave it to Mica.
“Thanks,” Mica said, holding the cloth to her nose. She sat down in the corner and leaned her head back. She was far too tired and far too angry to do anything else.
“What was that?” Ben whispered.
Mica shrugged. “I hate it when people tell me they’re all gone. You can save her? I mean, if we find her?”
Ben smiled at her and started to say something, but Aaron spoke up, his back to them as he fixed the Blind. “Paul tells me that you and Ben got over the Wall unaided. How?”
Mica and Ben exchanged a look. They hadn’t been able to straighten out their story yet, and Mica didn’t know how much they should tell Aaron. She raised an eyebrow at Ben, willing to let him tell their story.
“I got us over the Wall,” Ben said.
“How do you think?”
“There. All set,” Aaron said, flicking a switch on the Blind. Mica felt the strange feeling in her head again. Aaron stood up and turned to face them. “I don’t know how you did it, but I am willing to let you help us escape so that we don’t all die here. Now, how did you do it?”
Ben shook his head. “No. Here’s the plan. We wait for Hermes—we’re not leaving until we have our information. Then you get us to the Wall, and I’ll get us over. That’s the deal.”
Aaron frowned at him. “This isn’t a game. I need to know everything, Ben. The person I’m trying to get out of Windrose is extremely important. She could change everything for us.”
The mysterious doctor. Mica felt fear run a hand down her back. How could she possibly be so important? And what was she going to do to that poor Watcher hidden in the Unseen?
Ben studied Aaron. “I thought you believed in Perseus.”
Aaron blinked, and Mica held perfectly still.
“I believe that Perseus is coming,” Aaron finally said. “However, I have no reason to believe that you are Perseus.”
“Then how am I restoring Burners? How did we get past the Wall? Do you even know what’s on the Wall?” Ben asked, limping closer to Aaron. “Have you even been there? Not to the gates, but have you been to where people sneak over? It’s not technology and weapons guarding the Wall—it’s people like Watchers. Worse than Watchers.”
The woman’s glowing eyes blinked in Mica’s mind.
“Of course, I know what’s on the Wall,” Aaron said and stood his ground. “Your world is so small, Ben. If you only knew what we were really up against, maybe then you wouldn’t be so quick to rush into danger and let your little sister risk her life. Maybe you wouldn’t risk your own safety if you really can do what you claim. What they have on that Wall is far more dangerous than Watchers and far more dangerous than you. Now that you’ve seen them, you should understand what we’re really up against. I don’t have time for children. We are at war.”
Mica shivered at his words and squeezed her eyes shut against the memory of the man collapsed in a pile of glass, glittering and red in the moonlight.
Aaron stepped closer to Ben. “Whatever is on the Wall is exactly why we have to get this doctor out of Windrose. What you saw on the Wall is nothing— absolutely nothing! But this doctor can change the tide for us. Even if you can do what you say, she can change everything, do you understand that? So I have to get her out, or we’re all lost.”
“And we will get her out,” Ben said. “I will get her out after we get the information from Hermes. I promise you that, and I keep my promises.”
“I hope you’re right.” Aaron turned and found a blanket. He spread it out on the ground in front of a pile of boxes like a shrine. He knelt beside it as if in prayer, his back to them. “And it’s not because I doubt your abilities to heal the Burn that I doubt you are Perseus. I doubt that you are Perseus because you put yourself in danger for a very selfish reason. You chose to save one single person when the fate of millions, our entire country, is in your hands. And that is why I do not believe that you are Perseus. Perseus would not be so selfish, risking all for the sake of one lost.”
Aaron lay down on the blanket and closed his eyes. Ben went to his makeshift bed, lay down, and turned away. Mica, her back against the wall, her thumb running over the flowers on her lighter, closed her eyes. She sat listening to Ben and Aaron’s breath slow and steady into sleep. As the weight of Anda’s ghost pressed down on her back, she too fell asleep.
They slept, rested, and kept their thoughts to themselves. And the day passed softly and slowly.