We’re taken in an elevator to what is (back on our Earth) the intake level, the section of the bunker where all the Immigrants that are pushed through the Rift end up for processing. I can now imagine what it felt like for them, even though we actually understand what our captors are saying as we’re screamed at in Japanese. I note that we are gentler with the Immigrants than these soldiers manhandling us are. Regardless of how I feel about the welcome we receive, Levi and I don’t say a word, then we’re separated. I think we expected this, but it still doesn’t feel right. I’m thrown into an interrogation room and the door locks behind me. The room is empty save for two chairs and a table. There is a long mirror on the far wall, which I assume is a two-way mirror, just as we have. I haven’t been handcuffed, which is a lucky thing—for them. I could tear apart the cuffs like tinfoil if I wanted to, but more than likely I’d just use them to strangle the poor bastard who comes in here to question me. Handcuffs can be very efficient for that sort of thing.
I sit down in one of the chairs. All I can do now is wait. I close my eyes, and immediately my thoughts drift to Ezra, just like they always do when I have even one minute alone since he was pushed through the Rift—
In Levi’s defense, someone was trying to kill me and he was only trying to save my life. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. I’ve told myself that so many times I’m actually starting to believe it. But don’t I have to? The alternative is that Levi, for whatever reason, might have killed the first person I’ve ever had real romantic feelings for. If I continue to believe that, I may just snap and do a little killing of my own, and right now, I need Levi. He is the best Citadel for this job and there is a certain amount of justice to it as well. If Levi had given two shits about Ezra’s life, then I wouldn’t even be here in Kayanpu Joryoku. Then again, if Levi had hesitated, I might not be alive period.
Still, for me anyway, it all comes back to Ezra. He is smart—and I mean, like super-genius smart—and he’s a survivor. But can he survive on his wits alone? Even on an Earth like this, which seems rather tame compared to the ones I know are out there? He doesn’t speak Japanese. He isn’t totally white. He definitely isn’t East Asian. If he Rifted here first, he could have easily been captured before being able to Rift out and, let’s face it, they make actual movies about Japanese prison camps, and they never have happy endings …
For some reason I thought once I actually got through a Rift it would somehow ease my anxiety. It’s only made things worse. I have to get out of here. Safely. That means I have to push all thoughts of Ezra aside and focus. I keep my eyes closed.
CHAPTER 2 (#ulink_ddac9d1b-bed1-5fb7-880a-768c5689cd2c)
It’s been thirty-seven minutes and I’m getting restless. There’s a clock, old and moonfaced, trapped behind a metal grate. It’s the same exact clock we have in our own version of Camp Bonneville. From outside the room Japanese words float through the thick walls. Because of my spectacular hearing I can hear things that normal people can’t. No one is saying anything of consequence. The clock, though, is really starting to piss me off. Its hands grind and tick. Each revolution a reminder that time is against us. And not just Levi and me.
Because back on my Earth, Henry, Boone, and Violet have control of the Battle Ground Rift. For now. How long they will be able to keep that leadership a secret from ARC is unknown. To maintain news of the mutiny under wraps from the higher-ups we used the same drugs ARC had been using to keep the civilians—the soldiers at the base—and us in line for years. We even had to use it on the damaged Citadels who refused to believe that ARC was anything but benevolent. I never wanted to brainwash my own kind—I never wanted to brainwash anyone—but I learned the hard way that the truth doesn’t always set you free.
Before I left, we all agreed that it was best for everyone to believe that Colonel Applebaum was still in charge. Applebaum, that brash bully of a man, is nothing more than our puppet now. I even had him call my parents and send off a bunch of fake paperwork for them to sign to explain my absence (they think I’m doing an internship for one of our senators in Washington, DC). He was never much of a threat, especially with the Roones, like Edo, on our side. But Christopher Seelye, the president of ARC, is a different story altogether. Thankfully, he’s based at ARC HQ in California, but he does travel to all the Rift sites frequently. He’s scheduled to visit Battle Ground in three weeks, and I need to be back there to help my friends when he does. Seelye isn’t like Applebaum. He’s ruthless and brilliant, and I don’t know if my team can fool him for long. I don’t want to think about what will happen to the Citadels at Battle Ground if Seelye sends in troops from other Rifts to neutralize us. It’ll be a blood bath—death on both sides. The Battle Ground Citadels have had their kill switches removed, but the Citadels at the other Rift sites haven’t. Edo could once again engage the Midnight Protocol and kill thousands just by tapping Enter on a keyboard.
Tick, tick, tick. This must be an Earth close in space and time to our own. It seems like our theory was correct. This could have been my reality if the Axis powers had won the war. Strangers would have stolen our country, our freedom, and our clocks. They didn’t even bother to install their own. For some reason, I find this really annoying.
Finally, a door opens and a Japanese man in uniform enters the room. His face is unweathered. I doubt he’s seen even a moment of action his entire life. He sits down gingerly on a chair in front of me, the chair shifting beneath his slight frame. I sigh. He doesn’t look like a bad man, but I’m going to have to hurt him in order to leave this room. I don’t feel guilty about it. I look at the clock again. Timing is everything and he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“I am Captain Kotoku Sato,” he says in Japanese. “What is your name?” He’s efficient and to the point, but he’s not angry. He sounds mostly curious and maybe a little irritated.
“Ryn Whittaker,” I answer honestly.
“Why are you here, Ryn-san? You don’t look like a stupid girl. You must know this area is off limits to civilians.”
I shrug my shoulders. It’s not like I can tell him the truth. “Why are you here? Japan wasn’t big enough for you?”
Now it’s his turn to sigh. “The war has been over for almost a century. And just by looking at you, I can tell that you are not indigenous to this country, and so I could ask you the same thing.” I furrow my brow for a split second. He kind of has me there. “I just don’t understand you people,” he continues. “Is democracy so wonderful? In the years leading up to our liberation of this country, America suffered a great depression. People starved in the streets. There were no jobs. Entire families were homeless. And now every person in this country has a job. No one goes hungry. We all work for the benefit of our community. The individual is not more important than the greater good. We have proven this. We have eliminated suffering. Is that not better than your democracy, which leaves so many behind?”
I narrow my eyes at him. He makes a good point, but I’ve sacrificed enough in my own life for the greater good. And while I’m really not here to argue comparative politics with a man I’m about to kick the shit out of, I can’t help myself.
I’m impulsive like that.
“Except the Jews, right?” I ask in English. “Probably aren’t too many of them in your fantastic community.”
Sato slams his fist on the table. “We don’t speak that language here,” he says with a slow intensity that is bound to build. “Your punishment will be even greater if you continue.” So now I say nothing. I can hear his heart rate increase. I’m not afraid of him or his threats, even though I can tell he’s a man who is used to being obeyed. “Tell me, Ryn-san, are you a militia now? Is that why you and this other boy are wearing uniforms? It’s one thing to protest in front of government buildings, but to dress up like a pretend soldier and walk into a military base would imply that your group of anarchists is attempting something very foolish. I would like the names of your collaborators. I ask this only to keep you from further harm.”
I fold my arms and cock my head. My defiance makes his heart race even faster, but there’s no point in pissing him off too much. I switch back to Japanese.
“I can tell you in all honesty that I am not collaborating with anyone. Branach Levi-san and I came here alone. We are not part of any anarchist movement.”
Captain Sato grits his teeth. He doesn’t believe me. “Then I ask again, why are you here? Did you think we would just tell you to go away? Did you think there would not be consequences for your actions? We could lock you up for as long as we wish. Along with the dishonor you have already brought to your family by your actions, would you have them fret and worry about your whereabouts? Tell me who else you are working with and I will make sure your parents know you are safe.”
I roll my eyes just a fraction and give a little laugh. “Oh come on … No one has ever tried to break in here before? I can’t believe I’m the first rebellious teenager to try.” I emphasize the word teenager. It’s imperative that Sato believes that’s all I am.
“No civilian has ever been stupid enough to try such a thing, young and ‘rebellious’ or not. Kayanpu Joryoku is for military personnel only.”
I take a moment to process this information. I stare at the captain, whose heart rate has slowed, but who is nonetheless still agitated. “Just to be clear, then,” I begin slowly, “no civilian has been on this base or is on this base presently?”
The man stands and leans over the table. “Of course not. But do not think that you are special. This is not some sort of achievement. You won’t be bragging to your anarchist friends about what you’ve done by the time we have finished with you here.”
He’s threatening me again, and I really don’t like to be threatened. I like it even less that his idea of a perfect society includes the notion that it’s okay to torture a seventeen-year-old girl. I could kill him right now if I wanted. I could reach over and break his neck before anyone could get in to help him. I’ve killed like this before—quick, unthinking. I don’t enjoy doing it, but I do enjoy the power of knowing I have the ability to do it.
This is part of the darkness in me. All Citadels carry this weight, these shadows. But, unlike some of the others, I don’t deny the rage. I’m a rabid dog in a cage. I keep the cage locked with the help of my family and friends, and with discipline and purpose. I have a purpose here today—to find out if Ezra is here—and this self-important man has just helped me achieve it. I won’t have to let that dog loose.
“Thank you for answering my questions,” I say as I stand up. “I will be leaving now. For your own safety, I am warning you not to try and stop me.”
“I don’t think you understand what’s going on here. I am the one asking the questions!” Sato shouts as he jumps up from his chair.
I actually laugh aloud, much to Sato’s chagrin. I look him up and down. “Are you? Really?” And with that I walk toward the door. He races to stop me, yanking my arm back and actually pulling my hair. Good Lord, these are the people on this Earth who won the Second World War? Sissy hair pullers?
Faster than he can react, I reach down with my free hand, undo the holster at his waist, and grab his gun. I could shoot him, but that would be messy and noisy. Instead, I remove the clip and it falls to the concrete floor with a tinny clang. I check briefly to make sure there isn’t a bullet in the chamber and, finding there isn’t one, I fieldstrip the gun and release it from my hand with all the sass of a mic drop.
I really don’t like this Earth.
Sato’s eyes widen in surprise as he backs away. I have to be quick now, because any second, whoever is watching us through the two-way mirror will burst through the door.
I walk toward him and he distances himself so that we are facing each other. I look over his shoulder into the mirror and because I just can’t resist, I give a slight bow. Then, I pick Sato up, lift him high above my head, and—with all my strength—throw the captain through the mirror. He crashes through and lies still. He’s probably not dead, but I really don’t have time to wonder. The soldiers behind the broken glass scramble and push an alarm.
The siren’s wail is not loud enough to cover up the gunshot I hear.
Our Citadel uniforms will protect us from a bullet to the body, but not the head. If he were a member of my team from back home, I probably would have stuck around to make sure he didn’t need my help.
But I know Levi can handle himself.
I kick down the door to the interrogation room and start running. I have an advantage here. I know this base level by level. I know what is behind every corner. I zip past the soldiers as they begin to open fire, and though one bullet manages to land on my shoulder blade, it doesn’t penetrate my suit. That’s not to say it doesn’t sting like hell, but I heal fast, and it doesn’t slow me down in the slightest.
I make my way to an old escape hatch and find it already open, which means Levi has gotten out. I race through the forest, the soldiers chasing after me. There’s no way any one of these men or women can catch me on foot. I don’t know exactly how fast I can run, but when I’m really pushing it like I am now, it’s hard for the human eye to track me. I slow down at the site where Levi and I had stashed our equipment.
“What took you so long?” he asks me with a straight face. Coming from anyone else this might be considered humor, but not with Levi. He’s trying to work the laptop, which is tough, since he’s holding his other hand straight up in the air. His palm is bleeding like a stigmata.
“At least I didn’t get shot,” I snap back.
“Ezra isn’t there?”
I pull my pack up onto my shoulders. “Don’t tell me you weren’t able to figure that out during your interrogation?” I nudge Levi out of the way so that I’m the one facing the laptop. I have two working hands, which means I can get us out of here faster.
“No one asked me any questions. I suppose they thought you would break first.” I involuntarily snort, and Levi wisely says nothing more. I drag Ezra’s quantum signature icon into the running program and wait for a Rift to open. When it does, I hear something, an ever so slightly high-pitched frequency. I certainly heard sound inside the Rift, but now it seems like I’m hearing it outside of it as well.
“Do you hear that?” I ask Levi, just to make sure.