We defy augury. There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow.Hamlet
Last time we saw MICA… (click for recap)
Mica and Anda are escorted to see Colonel Mason, but when they get there, Mica realizes that something is wrong. They find themselves in a room with the Colonel and several other men Mica does not know. Ben is there too, and something is not right. She does not want to go into that room. Anda and her Seer are sent away, and the Mica learns what is going on: the Unseen have decrypted the data they got from Hermes in Windrose City of the incident at the West 9 factory where Peter died. And it shows something shocking. Anda murdered Peter. As the footage plays, Anda bursts into the room and is hysterical. They all stare at the screen as Peter’s murder unfolds in front of them, but how can they come to terms with what they are seeing…
After all this time searching for Anda, she never dreamed her search would lead her to Peter’s death.
Mica couldn’t remember how she got back to her cell, but it felt colder and smaller than before. As if the rock had shifted. Mica collapsed to the stone floor by the door and cried.
After Anda had been removed from the conference room, wailing and crying, they had sat in silence, letting the gravity of the situation sink in. Then Colonel Mason, Dr. Adams, and Dr. Paulson had grilled Mica and Ben for hours. So began the trial of Miranda Alderman.
It was a strange afternoon. To Mica, it felt both over in an instant and eternal. Hot and cold. Real and a dream. Sharp and painful yet numbing and dull. Colonel Mason assured them that no one outside that room would ever know of what Anda had done. If the council found out, they would insist on the death penalty: Unseen justice was swift and sure. Even worse than the council finding out, they couldn’t let the Unseen people ever know who had killed Peter, or they would riot and come for Anda. The Unseen loved their prophets, and whoever murdered a prophet was the same as the Rufus, the Prophet Killer, and deserved death.
But, Colonel Mason said with a frown, “I am in charge of keeping my people safe. So I have to know if, deep down, in the deepest part of her core, Anda is a killer. Or did her circumstances force her to act?”
Had the Burn simply removed the safeguards that her life in West Six had put into place, revealing the core of her being? Was part of her a killer? Or was she not and had acted out of self-preservation in reaction to her surroundings? Was murder part of Anda’s nature, or had her new context and surroundings formed her and shaped her?
The Colonel and the doctors asked question after question about Anda and demanded clear and specific answers. They wanted to know what she was like. Had she ever done anything like this before? Kill someone? Of course not, don’t be stupid. But they kept asking.
All the while, Aaron and Cassandra and Stephen listened silently. Occasionally, someone would ask Cassandra or Aaron a question about their experience with Anda back in West Six. They answered directly and clearly: they did not think that Anda was a threat.
Then it was time to vote.
Colonel Mason had pursed her lips and tapped her fingernails on the table. Hers was the only vote that had mattered. When a vote had been taken among the three, Colonel Mason, Dr. Adams, and Dr. Paulson, Anda had been found innocent of murder. Precautions would still be taken—she was still dangerous, and the Unseen would not risk their people and their city in any way. But Anda would not die for her actions.
Despite the innocent verdict, Anda would remain in the Unseen as a prisoner. But what good was the innocent verdict if it got her a life sentence anyway? She’d be a prisoner just like Mica, just like Ben. The Colonel didn’t say it out loud, but she didn’t have to.
Mica kicked her cot. The metal shuddered. She kicked it again. And again, and again, and again.
“Hey! Calm down in there, Mics,” Stephen said from somewhere on the other side of the door. “What’d that bed ever do to you?”
“Will you people ever stop watching me?” Mica asked, annoyed that even in her cell, she was not alone. Yet, she was grateful that it was Stephen and not a stranger.
“Probably not,” he said, and she could hear the smile in his voice.
She came closer and peeked out the little window in the cell door. Stephen sat in a chair opposite her cell. Mica wondered how she didn’t realize he was there. “I guess it was too much to hope for some privacy. But I’m too special, aren’t I?”
“Perhaps,” Stephen said after a pause. “Ben has special abilities much like the Human Elements, so he’ll be observed and watched forever… What are your abilities?”
“What, are you kidding?” Mica looked at him in surprise. “I don’t do weird shit like him.”
“I think I’d know if I could control people’s minds, so, yeah, I’m sure. Here, let’s do a test. I’m controlling you… I’m controlling you…. see? Nothing.”
Stephen nodded. “And Anda? Does she have any abilities?”
“Oh, come on. They just spent the past three hours asking me that. No, she doesn’t have any powers. No, she isn’t a threat. No, she’s not a freak—she’s not a Human Element or Watcher or a….” her voice trailed off. She kicked at the door absently.
Stephen broke the quiet. “That day we found you and Aaron in the woods? I… I felt something strange about you.”
Mica flushed. “They think she’s dangerous,” she said, ignoring his statement. “Anda’s never hurt anyone before. Ever. I’m the one that…” She’s the one that hurt people, and now she was stuck in this cell because of it. “They think we’re… freaks! And dangerous. Anda will be safe here—Colonel Mason said so herself. Safer than I’ll be when I leave.”
“You want to leave?” he asked so softly she barely heard him.
“Come with me,” she whispered.
He was quiet for a long time, and Mica dared to hope. “But you can’t leave Anda now,” he finally said.
“She knows she killed Peter. Can you imagine learning something like that?”
Mica leaned her back against the door and slid to the floor so she wouldn’t have to look at him while she said such terrible things. “I can’t even look at her. I can’t even look at myself—I can’t stay here with all this, this… this… everything.”
“So you would leave her here alone?”
“We could go right now. You could get us both out. They wouldn’t even know we were gone until it was too late,” she said with a twinge of guilt. She meant it, but she hated asking, begging for help yet again like some helpless child.
“Mica, come on. We’re still inside the mountain and the Seers protection, and Hannah is just down the hall,” he said, and Mica realized that Anda’s cell was at the other end of the hallway. Stephen continued, “there’s no way we’d make it out of this place, much less all the way down the mountain and out of the country. And you know what you’d be asking me to give up, don’t you?”
Mica stood and looked out the little window and found him standing close to the door. His face just inches away from hers. She stared into the darkness of the silk mask around his eyes. “But you could see again,” she said. “I still don’t understand why you’d give up your sight.”
“Yeah, you do.”
“No, I don’t. Not for this place.”
“I gave up one kind of vision for another. I willingly gave up my sight because I thought I could do more for my people without it.”
“Yeah, like these people are so great.”
“It’s… complicated. The Unseen are fighting against Loraine in their own way, even if they’re going about it the wrong way. I thought you could see that. I thought that you weren’t so… stubborn. Help us save the Burned. Isn’t that a worthy cause?”
“Of course it is. But… why do I have to stay? If it means seeing Anda and Ben every day and… and remembering everything, then I don’t think I can do it.” And she finally understood the appeal of the Burn. Maybe forgetting was better sometimes.
Stephen shook his head. “Staying means helping your sister when she needs you most. Staying means helping Ben save us all.”
“But… don’t you want to come with me?”
He shifted and winced. “Would you really leave Anda like this?”
His question flicked over her like a flame. After everything she’d done to find Anda, was the shame of looking her in the eye every day worse than the shame of leaving her? And she wondered who she did all those things for—had she really gone to the Unseen and Windrose to find Anda? Or had she been too scared to fail her sister?
She turned and leaned against the door. Harsh shadows stood out against the tiled floor in the fluorescent light. Mica squeezed her eyes shut.
Shadow and sunshine.
Anda had always needed her. Anda had always been too timid and delicate. The West Six soldiers had always terrified her, and bumps in the night had always awakened her. Glints and flashes of light had always brought back memories of Watchers and had pulled deep fears to the surface of her mind like sea monsters from a fairy tale. Yet Mica had always been there to protect her, no matter how much Anda had frustrated and annoyed her.
Despite all her complaints and mumblings about Anda, Mica had needed her too. Anda had always been the quiet in and out breathing at night to soothe her to sleep when all she could feel was hate. Anda had always been a soft word when Mica’s temper had flared. Anda had always been the smile at something small and lovely that Mica hadn’t even noticed, and she was the reason to keep their family together. Despite Mica’s angry arson and theft, Anda had been the reason why she had never really tried to leave, no matter how badly she had wanted to. Her mother might have been the hammer, her emblem, her perfect image of strength, but Anda had always been the reason to fight.
They were shadow and sunshine. Forever linked, forever connected.
Yet she still wasn’t sure who this being was who peeked from her sister’s eyes. She wasn’t Anda, but she wasn’t entirely different. Mica still knew her looks and her smiles. She had known that look on Anda’s face, after she had pulled the trigger. And it had frightened her. The one thing she had wanted to do, to keep Anda safe, she had utterly failed to do. The shame of it was too great, but the shame of leaving would be far, far worse.
Shame smiled at her, toothy and yellow. And in that moment, Mica finally understood her shame: she was still doing everything for herself, not really for Anda.
“No. I can’t leave her,” Mica finally said, her voice thick with emotion and cold. “I could never leave her.”