Last time we saw MICA… (click for recap)
Mica, Ben, Aaron, and Dr. Henderson return to the Unseen City. As they arrive, a ship lands. No one is expecting a ship, but the verification code is Cassandra’s. Mica watches as Styx and Cassandra emerge from the ship. She is then stunned when Anda also emerges. Chaos erupts as the siblings are shocked at the sight of their sister and devastated that she does not remember them. Ben tells Cassandra that he can restore her memories if she trusts him. She agrees, and Ben does so. Intrigued by Cassandra’s restoration, Anda agrees to let Ben restore her memories. Only it doesn’t work, and Anda does not remember…
Mica watched her brother fail again.
He had said that he would restore Anda when they found her, but after Ben had tried to restore her memories, Anda just looked at them like they were strangers.
He had failed them all again, and Mica didn’t know what to do next.
Bright lights overhead flashed past as guards swept them along the hallway from the transport bay towards the medical bay. The guards were flanking them and following, their eyes always watching, watching, watching.
Ben had collapsed after his failed attempt to restore Anda’s memories. Mica knew she should care that Ben had given his everything, that he was spent and exhausted and lay beside her on a gurney, pale and still, and she did, she did care, but not as much as she should have. He had failed to restore Anda, and she didn’t understand why. Anda trotted in front of her. Her small form seemed like a leaf carried on the wind.
Mica reached for her past the guards. “Anda?”
Anda flinched at her touch and smacked her hand away. “Don’t touch me!”
The timid and soft-spoken Anda was gone, and someone strange and unfamiliar looked out her eyes at Mica. If Ben couldn’t get her memories back, who was this foreign woman looking at her through her sister’s eyes? Was Anda even still in there?
Shame put her little hand in Mica’s and refused to let go.
After reaching the medical bay, they had all been separated, and Mica had calmed down. The feeling of too much, too hot, and too painful faded, but the dull ache left behind was almost worse. Colonel Mason had added to and expanded the standard procedure for new arrivals, so Mica sat through test after test after test.
Then more tests.
They poked and examined her, but she felt hollow. Empty and alone. Mica had worked so hard to find Anda. She had poured everything she had into the search, but now that Anda had been found, she felt farther away than ever. This young woman who had looked at her without memories or history or love was not her sister. Her sister really was gone for good.
No, not gone for good. Found. She’d found Anda and Ben, and they could still be a family again, somehow. She knew that she would always feel guilt and shame for getting Anda Burned, but at least now she could keep her promise and keep Anda safe. But Anda would be safest here… without her.
Sitting on a gurney in the cold medical bay, Mica realized that she needed to leave.
The image of her mother holding her hammer flashed in Mica’s mind, but it no longer had the power it used to. She had kept her promise to the best of her ability, and now it was her turn. It was time to finally leave Nova. Ben wouldn’t come. He was too busy being Perseus. With a brief pang of something that she could not identify, she thought of Stephen.
Leaving him behind would be… she struggled for the right word to tag her emotion with but decided she would rather not. She remembered the bright days they had spent on top of the mountain, watching the clouds float across the sky and catch on the neighboring mountain tops. Those days were sunlight and wind and rock. Those days were cold and bright and blue. Bright and cold. Just like the day West Six burned.
She vividly remembered sitting alone in the farmhouse and staring out the open door into the sunlight and realizing that her family had left her. They’d all run off to West Six, and she was all alone. The cold that had overcome her had stung like ice.
Eventually, she was taken to an interrogation room, and Colonel Mason walked in for the interview. Mica squirmed under her harsh gaze, but Colonel Mason’s attention was elsewhere. Mica pushed at the bandaged under her sleeve where the nurses had poked her with needles. The spot on her arm warmed with pain. There had been so many needles, and they had taken so much blood. Mica pressed down harder.
Colonel Mason looked down at her notes. “I’m here as a formality. Do you understand?”
“Sure thing.” Mica stopped poking at her sore arm. “Where’s Stephen? And Hannah?”
“You should be more concerned about yourself right now.”
“What did you do to Stephen?”
Colonel Mason looked up from her file. “Why would I do anything to him? He’s like a son to me.”
“Yeah, a son who went behind your back to help me and Rebekah escape. A son who doesn’t agree with what you’re doing to that Watcher. That son? The one who just broke a whole lot of Unseen laws? Where is he?”
“You think you know quite a lot.”
“I know what I saw, and I saw him protect us from you. And I know that you won’t let that go. Now, what did you do to him? If you hurt him—”
“Oh, please. I have enough to do, and I don’t have time to listen to your impotent whining. Stephen is fine, of course. Your friends are fine.”
“Where is he?”
“He’s safe. And as for Hannah and her new friends, they’re safe too. We’ve been in negotiations with them since they arrived here from Haven. And we’ve sent supplies. I’m not a monster, Mica. I do want to help people.”
“And Stephen? Is he still going to be a Seer?”
Mica blinked in surprise. She hadn’t expected that.
Colonel Mason smiled, and it was a sly and wolfish smile. “You thought what? That I would lock him up? Send him away? Burn him? Have him executed for treason? Is that what you think of me? When your friends showed up wanting to negotiate with us on behalf of Ben and Haven, Hannah said she’d only speak to Stephen, so he’s been a part of the negotiations. She is quite… loyal. That’s a quality we appreciate here. Even if that loyalty is misguided.”
“I don’t get it. Why are you negotiating with them? Why don’t you just lock Ben and the rest—oh. Because then you’d have to come clean about your little plot,” she said, finally understanding.
Too many people knew about the attempt to kidnap Ben and experiment on him. And Hannah coming into the city with Perseus insured his, and everyone else’s, safety. The general population was obsessed with Perseus. There would be riots on the mountain if they found out the Colonel planned to drug Ben, drag him back to the Unseen in secret, experiment on him, and torture him in some lab. The Unseen crowds would eat her alive if they found out she’d intended to do that to their precious Perseus.
Mica smiled at the thought, but the look Colonel Mason gave her only thinly veiled something cold and dangerous. A pale thing peeped out of her eyes, something Mica hadn’t seen before but had always known was there. At least Stephen was safe. Maybe she’d even get to see him before she left. She’d like to say good-bye.
“You should be more worried about yourself right now than your friends.”
“Why is that? I’ve got Perseus on my side.”
“You passed your medical exams,” Colonel Mason said as if Mica hadn’t spoken. “And the Seers cleared you of Watchers. I’m only here to check this off my list—I have far more important things to do than lecture you about your behavior.”
Mica slouched in her chair. “Doesn’t matter anyway,” she said and looked down at her hands in thought. The plastic cuffs had been cut off of her wrists, but thin bands marked her skin. “I want out,” she said. She swallowed back the memory of that day and the rising acrid fear it brought with it.
“You’ve been wanting to get me out of the Unseen and Nova for good. Well, now I want out.”
Colonel Mason studied Mica for a moment, her dark brows drawn together in thought. “And what about Anda and Ben?” she asked.
“What do you care? I don’t want to stay anymore, so get me out.”
“You might not believe this, but I did want your sister to recover her memories,” Colonel Mason said. She folded her hands in front of her and watched Mica with her mouth turned down. “Things may have changed since you left, but your situation is still the same.”
Mica pressed her fingertips into the table, feeling the metal push against the pointed bones of her fingers. She felt like something dangerous was lurking just behind Colonel Mason’s shoulder, something pale and cold that hadn’t seen the sunlight in too long, and Mica wondered how she could avoid it.
“Oh, I think it has changed,” Mica said.
“And why is that?”
“Because I don’t matter.”
Colonel Mason shifted in her chair. “Really?”
“Yeah, really,” Mica said and knew that Colonel Mason couldn’t miss the sarcasm in her voice.
“You have Ben. You don’t need me. I’m nothing. You want to keep me here, fine, that’s your problem. I’ll be a pain in the ass for as long as I’m here. I was crap in your stupid fields anyway, and I’m sure you won’t let me do anything more interesting than scrub toilets now. Just let us go. I mean, I’ll just take up space and food.”
Colonel Mason pushed her chair back. “I don’t have time for this. You are staying here because of Ben. Before your escape, we were holding you because you were going to go find him and Anda, and that would have put this city in jeopardy.”
“And now we need you here because of Ben. Simple.”
“That’s not fair.”
“I don’t care. Dr. Henderson needs you for her tests, so you’ll stay. And we’re done here.”
“No, no, no, wait. Just wait,” Mica said, reaching across the table, her hands suddenly slick with sweat. “You don’t need me—you need Ben for your tests.”
The light from the single bulb above her shown a single point like a solitary star in Colonel Mason’s eyes. “Dr. Henderson thinks that Ben’s abilities are genetic, and so there might be more to learn from you even if you are not manifesting abilities.”
“Is she doing this willingly?” Mica remembered the terror in Dr. Henderson’s eyes when she looked at Ben.
Colonel Mason inclined her head. “In her own way, yes. She is willing.”
“What does that mean?”
“That means it’s none of your concern.”
The little hairs on the back of Mica’s neck stood up. “What were Stephen’s parents really working on?” The Colonel only looked at her. “It wasn’t to save the Seers sight, so what was it? Why would you need a doctor who worked on Human Elements?” Mica turned it over in her mind. “Does Dr. Henderson think that with Ben she could find a cure for the Burn?”
“Yes,” Colonel Mason said, but Mica knew she was lying. She was hiding something. “Although, we won’t know more for a while yet.”
“Does Dr. Henderson know you’ve been experimenting on the Watcher?” Colonel Mason’s eyes flicked to her, and she saw that dangerous, pale, and hungry thing. She continued, “Dr. Henderson doesn’t seem like the kind of person to be up for torture. What would she do if she knew?”
“She will do what it takes because Perseus is going to save us all. And you’re going to help.”
“Ben won’t let you. He’ll get me out,” Mica said, and she knew it was true. Ben wouldn’t let her suffer here. He wouldn’t keep her locked away in a stone cell for the rest of her life to be poked and prodded and drained of blood whenever it suited the Colonel and her doctor.
Colonel Mason leaned forward and looked at her hard, and Mica saw glee on her face. “I’m afraid that Ben said you’d be happy to stay and serve Perseus.”
And just like that, all the air in the room seemed to vanish, and Mica felt lightheaded.
“When we’re done here, you’ll be moved into a cell close to the medical bay while Dr. Henderson does her work.”
“A cell? So I’m a prisoner?” She thought of that little row of doors, the jail, the empty cells.
The Colonel smiled, and it was wolfish and white. “It’s for your own protection, understand. But also because, despite Ben’s status here, you are still guilty of treason and theft. Ben couldn’t get you out of that. At least, not yet.” Colonel Mason rose to go but paused. “Please understand: you and I are far more alike than you would like to think,” she said in a low voice. “I do understand what you feel.”
“Oh yeah, how’s that? You being held against your will by a crazy woman?”
The Colonel smiled, but it was a sad and bitter smile. “No. I, too, am alone.”
Mica looked up into dark eyes. They shimmered like a dark stone submerged in clear blue water. Then the Colonel left, and Mica was alone.
Deep inside, deep under the heaviness and the ache, she realized that she had no choice. If Ben was on their side, they would hold her here against her will no matter what. But it wasn’t over yet. If there was a way out of this place, she would find it. She got out once, she would get out again, and she would find her way out of Nova somehow. There was no way she would stay here and have to face Anda and her past every single day.
Mica kicked her foot against the table leg.
“Please hold still,” Dr. Henderson said. She kept her eyes on the needle in Mica’s arm. A steady flow of blood raced through the needle, down the clear tube, and into a bag.
“How much more are you going to take?” Mica asked but stopped kicking her heel.
The doctor only looked at her. Mica noted the redness around her eyes and nose and the pasty look of her skin. She looked like she had been crying all night.
“You don’t have to be scared of me,” Mica said. “I’m not like him. No weird voodoo shit here.”
The doctor gave her a curious look, then turned and walked away.
After her conversation with the Colonel, a guard had escorted Mica down to the arrival bay to her new home: a stone jail cell.
Three days later, the guard came back.
Three days of quiet and cold and stone. Three days of the lights clicking on at one time and clicking off sixteen hours later. Three days of three meals a day slid into the cell through a little door and pulled back out once she was done. Three days of spending hours doing too many pushups and situps and squats and lunges just to keep her body burning enough to keep her mind quiet. Three days of being a prisoner. And after three days, Mica had a plan.
After three days, the guard opened the door and escorted her back to the medical bay. There, Dr. Henderson had eyed her suspiciously but had begun to run her tests. The guard left, leaving Mica alone with the doughy doctor. When the guard did not return, Mica decided to begin her escape.
All she needed to do is swipe the keycard from Dr. Henderson, wait for an opportunity, steal another jumpsuit, jack a transport, and be on her way. It could be that easy. It had to be that easy because she couldn’t ask for help. So Mica waited for her opportunity.
Dr. Henderson returned and removed the needle from Mica’s arm. She replaced the gauze and wrapped her arm in a white bandage. Her fingers, thin and delicate and pale, trembled the entire time.
Mica eyed the doctor’s pocket where her keycard was. The doctor’s access wouldn’t get her far, but it would open more doors than Mica could on her own. Dr. Henderson leaned forward, and Mica reached for the card. But a tapping sounds caught her attention, and she withdrew her hand.
The sound grew louder, and a second tapping joined the first, like a casual conversation between woodpeckers. The doors opened, and two figures walked in. Seers.
Hannah dressed all in white. Her eyes no longer wrapped in the black of a traditional Seer mask but white. The White Seer.
People had been calling her that, the White Seer. Since she had broken her vows and effectively left the Unseen for Ben and Haven, she was no longer officially a Seer for the Unseen. Hannah was Perseus’s Seer now, his White Seer. She was the liaison between the Unseen and Haven, and while Colonel Mason and the council no longer trusted her, she had the Unseen people’s trust. She had sacrificed for Perseus, and she was revered and honored for that.
Their two guides released the Seers into the medical bay but stood guard outside the doors. Mica hoped that Hannah would come say hello and tell her that everything was all right, but she made her way to an exam room at the far end of the medical bay, disappeared inside, and closed the door. The second Seer walked right for Mica, and her heart gave a little flutter. She knew his walk, the tilt of his head, the lines and dimples around his mouth: Stephen.
Suddenly her plan to steal a keycard and run seemed childish and far too dangerous. Stephen had risked everything to save her. It had taken him, Rebekah, Hannah, and who knew how many others to get her out. Stealing a keycard and sneaking around was absurd in light of what they had done to rescue her. She’d never be able to escape the same way—they would catch her for sure.
“Dr. Henderson? I was told to report to you,” Stephen said.
Dr. Henderson looked at him with disgust. “You’re to watch her. I’m working, so whatever it is that you do quietly,” she said and then moved off, taking the bag of Mica’s blood with her.
Stephen did not move. He stood still, his head tilted a bit like he was listening.
“You all right?” Mica asked after a moment of silence.
He held his arms out as if for inspection. “Still kicking,” he said with a grin.
“But….” she trailed off, remembering Stephen pulling the short stick across the Colonel’s throat. She wondered what it cost him to do that.
“And I’m disappointed in you,” he said, shaking a finger at her in jest, but his mouth was serious.
“Me? You’re serious?”
“You weren’t supposed to come back,” he said, shifting closer.
“You weren’t supposed to get caught. What kind of spy are you?”
“Not a spy, remember? But you really weren’t supposed to come back. Why did you?”
Mica picked at the gauze wrapped around her arm. “Where was I supposed to go?”
“You should have stayed in Haven with Rebekah. You should have gotten out of Nova,” he said. His neck tensed, tendons standing out against the skin turning red. He was angry with her.
“Are you seriously mad at me?” she asked and sat up a little straighter, indignant that he was chiding her.
Stephen leaned against the gurney she sat on. “We risked a lot to get you out, and you came back. Not only that, but you brought Perseus back with you.”
“Ben. His name is Ben.”
“Whatever you call him, you shouldn’t have brought him here.”
“Uh, wasn’t my idea. I was completely against it, and I told him not to come.”
“You should have pushed harder.”
“Hey, why are you so pissed? Huh? I’m doing the best I can here.”
“Then why did you come back?”
Mica looked down at her hands. They were red and felt prickly and hot. She mashed them into her face and groaned and said: “because I have to get out of Nova, and I thought the Unseen could help.”
“Yeah, well, you came to the wrong place.”
“Thanks. Figured that out.” She swiveled away from him and sat staring at the wall.
A moment of quiet filled the room and silenced her thoughts. Stephen was her only hope to get out of here, but she didn’t want to ask him for help again. He had already helped her, and yet here she was.
“I thought that if I came back here with Ben, then just send me away like they were going to before. And… and I wanted to say good-bye before I left.”
Stephen felt closer. She couldn’t see him, and she didn’t think he moved, but he felt closer.
“Maybe before Ben you could have left, but not now. You’re not leaving here, Mica. Not ever.”
Her gut knotted up tight, and fear smiled at her. “Why not?”
“Stephen?” It was Hannah. Mica hadn’t noticed her approach. As if Hannah could see her and would know that she had been crying, Mica wiped the tears from her eyes and turned to face the White Seer.
“Hello, Mica,” the White Seer said with a wide smile.
“I’m glad that you and Ben found Miranda.”
Mica made a pained expression that no one could see. “And I’m glad you’re all right. I didn’t know what Colonel was going to do to you when you got back.”
Hannah smiled. “Nothing. Word about Perseus spread fast, and Gabe is a surprisingly well-spoken man. As long as everyone knows we represent Perseus, we’re safe. Alayla can’t risk the people rioting. And Perseus is coming.”
“Cetus will die,” Stephen replied.
Hannah nodded. “Mica, Miranda would like to see you.”