Mom breathes in a quick intake of air, squeezing my sore shoulder. I wince, turning my face away so she can't see that she's hurt me.
"But I can tell you're keeping something from us," she says.
Of course she can see through me. She's always been able to, like I'm made out of glass.
"It takes four hours to make," I whisper, looking down at the floor of the cell, "And it can't revert the damage already done by the virus."
Still holding Elliot, I stare at the dirt gathered on the concrete floor. It forms spirals in the mixtures of air coming from the stairwell.
"We need to get out of here," Isaac says, resting his forehead against the bars. "How old are these cells?"
I shrug, watching as he turns around and grasps the bars with his cuffed hands, grunting and lifting.
"Relatively new, I'm sure," I say, "Why?"
"This isn't the first time we've been imprisoned," he says, glancing over his shoulder at me, "It's actually the third? Fourth, maybe. I can't keep track. Either way, we've always escaped the same way. I'm surprised no one has caught on yet."
He gives the bars another push, and I realize what he's trying to do. He thinks he can lift the door out of the hinges.
"That won't work," I say, handing Elliot back to Mom and walking over to the door. I cradle my left arm against my chest, motioning for him to look at the hinges. "They're welded closed at the top. The design is modern enough to prevent basic escapes like that."
Isaac scrunches up his nose at me, nodding before he starts to pace.
"Any other ideas, then?" he asks, voice echoing around the basement.
I run a hand down my uniform, brushing the dust off my jumpsuit. For some reason, I'm cold, making me wish I hadn't taken off the jacket. As I think, I inspect the wound on my arm. The purple has disappeared up my shoulder, and it stretches down to my wrist.
Glancing at Mom's shoulder tells me her mark is much more extensive. The marks have taken over her hand, snaking up her neck now. It will reach her lungs soon, making it hard for her to breathe, capturing her heart.
I clench my fist at my chest, closing my eyes to take a deep breath.
What's in my pocket? Did I carry a book with me when I left this morning? No, I was going to meet Jay.
My eyes go wide as I realize what the cold solid square is in my pocket.
"My tablet!" I say, digging into my jumpsuit and pulling out the black tablet. Isaac stops pacing, peering through the bars at me with his eyebrows raised high.
"Do you get signal down here?" Isaac asks, excitement laced in his voice.
"How do you know about this technology?" I ask, turning it on. Thankfully, it's not dead.
"I'm from Compound 5," he says, "I was reassigned after the Exam. There were some... issues."
I browse through the contacts on my tablet, wondering who I could message to come and get us out. The list contains a bunch of people that I really don't know: captains, guards, and colonels. None that I trust to help me without telling Kovach.
"Jay told me that," I mumble, "It just slipped my mind. It was when Kovach's father was President."
Isaac nods, leaning against the bars.
"When the reassignment process was real," he whispers, "Any luck?"
I shake my head.
"I don't have a lot of friends. Not a lot of people liked that I was given a position as soon as I got my scores. Plus, my job doesn't allow for much of a social life."
"Well," I say, eyes falling on Rivers' contact information, "There might be one."
Rivers has always been absent when Kovach's rampaging around. He sits in his office during the day, keeping to himself. Although he seems tough, he's never once said anything mean to me.
What could it hurt?
If he does tell Kovach, she'll just storm down here and take the tablet from me, and I will be no worse off than I am right now. I guess there's no harm in trying.
"Who are you contacting?" Dr. Price asks, fanning my sweating mother.
"Colonel Rivers," I mutter, typing as I talk.
"I need your help," I type, holding my breath, "This has gone too far. We need to stop Kovach."
"Delivered," I say, listening to Isaac begin to pace again, "Read."
"Tell us what he says," Isaac says.
The three dots blink as River's replies. I release the breath I'm holding, smiling.
Where are you?
Downstairs, I type back, In the cells.
I'm on my way.
"He's coming to help," I say, sitting back down on the concrete, touching baby Elliot's cheek.
Five minutes later, Rivers walks out of the elevator, sweat beading down his forehead.
"What's going on?" he barks, opening my cell door and rushing in. I hold a hand out to him, feeling dizzy.
"We're infected," I say, standing up. I take Elliot from Mom, who has her eyes closed and mouth open. Her breathing sounds painful, mixed with her whining and shaking.
"Kovach did this?" Rivers asks, holding my good arm as I steady myself. "Why?"
I tell him about Patel and the others upstairs, how I helped them get into the compound, and how Kovach labeled it as treason.
"You knew about the Repor?" I ask, taking his keys from him as he stands still, glaring at the empty space in front of him. I unlock Isaac's cell first and then, his handcuffs. The man rubs his wrist, nodding at me in thanks before he takes the keys and moves to free Dr. Price.
"Of course I knew," Rivers says, "I never thought she would actually release them."
"Underestimating her was your first mistake," I mumble, sighing.
Rivers runs a hand through his hair, shaking his head.
"Well, Lieutenant," he says, raising his eyebrows, "What's the plan?"
I freeze, staring over at him. Why is he asking me? Am I supposed to have a long term projection for everything? Who put me in charge? For a moment, I despise my title. Without Kovach around, Rivers technically answers to me, regardless of whether or not I want him to.
"We go upstairs," I whisper, handing Elliot to Dr. Price, who has moved into Mom's cell, tending her, "And we stop President Kovach."
YOU ARE READING
Selected (Book 2 of the Immune Series)Science Fiction
"As far back as I can remember, I've been surrounded by water. The salt in the air even now makes it hard to breath, forcing me to squint. Sand clings to every inch of me, caking my pants and shoes. The wind from the ocean picks my hair up, sending...