Children of Eden Page 50

“There are always more options,” Lachlan insists.

Flint agrees, obviously reluctantly, and I hold Lark’s hand while he and Lachlan ask her questions.


* * *


THE EDGE MEMBER assigned to keep a discreet watch on my house followed us when Mom and I went out to get my lens implants. They saw everything—the roadblock, Mom’s murder—but couldn’t help me without giving themselves away. They gave Lark my last known location, and she came searching for me, along with other members of the Edge who were in on the secret of my existence. But no one could find a trace of me.

In despair, Lark went to her star tower, the glorious rooftop where I got my very first, very confusing kiss. And there, by a strange coincidence, she looked down over the edge to the city below and saw me.

She was sure she was imagining it. Of all the vast number of people in Eden, how could it be that she happened to spy the one person she was searching for. She almost stayed on the rooftop, knowing it was only wishful thinking . . . but in the end she dashed down the stairs. She lost us for a long time, but finally spotted Lachlan and me just as we were slithering through the grate that led to the Underground.

How could she know me from so high up? I wondered. I had been up there at night, of course, but even in daylight I doubt I could have picked out any one person from so high up. Could her story be true? I want to believe it.

“No one else knows,” she swears. “Just me, and it was just luck.”

“Why did you want to find Rowan so badly?” Lachlan asks.

“I didn’t just want to find her. I needed to find her!”

“You care about her that much?” Lachlan asks, half-respectful and, I think, half-suspicious.

“I do,” Lark says amid her tears. “And I had to tell her something.”

“What?” I ask, coming closer.

“It’s your brother, Rowan. They’ve got him.”

My heart seems to sink in my chest with a sick thud. “Who?” I ask, knowing only too well.

“The Greenshirts came for him when you were missing. They dragged him out of his classroom.”

I can’t believe it. Not Ash. Not poor, weak, innocent, loving Ash.

“His trial was already held, quickly and in secret. He’s going to be executed in three days.”

My hand covers my mouth. He’s done nothing wrong! Holding back sobs, I force myself to ask, “And my father? Has he been arrested, too?”

“Oh, Rowan,” Lark says with such sorrow you’d think I was the one bound in a torture chamber, my death looming. “Your father is the one who condemned him.”



“UNTIE HER,” I say, and when no one makes a move, I scream, “Let her go now!” I feel like I’m losing it. Not Ash. Not sweet, gentle Ash . . .

“Rowan, I think you should . . . ,” Flint begins.

“No,” I shout, and I’m surprised at my own strength, standing up to these two men. Where Ash is concerned I can do anything. “She’s going free, and she’s going to help me rescue Ash.” I stare evenly at Lachlan. “And you’re going to help us.”

“Out of the question,” Flint answers for him. “Even if we let her live—and that’s still very doubtful—she can never leave the Underground. We can’t take the risk. And I’m very sorry about your brother, but we simply can’t help him. Neither can you.”

“You can’t stop me from trying to save my brother!” My voice comes out in a snarl, fury rising in my throat.

“We most certainly can. It won’t be pleasant, but we can lock you up, drug you . . . whatever it takes to protect the Underground from exposure.”

“You mean I’m a prisoner? I thought this was supposed to be a free society, where second children could lead normal lives.”

“There’s no such thing as normal on this Earth anymore,” Lachlan interjects.

I ignore him. “You’re all about protecting second children, right? Well, my mother and brother have been protecting one for sixteen years. My mom gave her life protecting one! My brother has been arrested because he kept me safe for so long. You have to help him.”

“Rowan,” Lachlan says very gently, “your brother must be in the Center prison. I’m so sorry for him, and for you. To lose everyone important to you all at once . . .” He breaks off, and I see his eyes glisten with tears that don’t fall. He blinks them quickly away. “But there’s nothing we can do. There’s no way any of us can get inside the Center prison.”

“I can get you in,” Lark says.


* * *


WE LISTEN TO her idea. It sounds feasible, but . . .

“No, it wouldn’t work,” Lachlan says. “That would get us in, but once inside we’d have to maneuver within the building. We’d need IDs, clearance. None of our contacts have that kind of power. We’d have to have someone very high up on the inside to give us security codes, access passes.”

I think for a moment. “Someone like the next vice chancellor?” I ask.

They look at me in surprise as I let them know my father has been handpicked by the chancellor to be his second in command.

“But he would never help you,” Lachlan protests. “Not if what Lark says is true.” He asks Lark, “Did he really turn in his own son?”

She nods. “My father overheard some Center officials talking about it, though I don’t think anyone outside the government knows yet. I don’t know how he managed to protect himself, but your father’s job—and his life—are secure. And he’s the one who signed his own son’s death warrant.”

I hear Lachlan suck in his breath, feel his hand on my arm. I shake him off.

“I don’t need your pity—I need your help. I know my father is a wicked man who would do anything to save himself.” No, that’s not quite true. I never, ever imagined he would do this to Ash, his beloved son. I always knew he would have turned on me, turned me in, if it wasn’t that Mom and Ash would have suffered, too. But Ash? I wouldn’t have thought it possible, even from him.

“We can’t help you,” Lachlan says again, so gently. “It’s an impossible mission. Suicide. We can’t put what we have here, and our future plans, at risk.” I can see the strain in him, the tension of believing that two opposing things are absolutely right. He wants to save Ash, for my sake, and because Ash helped a second child, and, I think, because Lachlan simply believes that it is his duty to help people in need. But he also has an unshakable commitment to the Underground, to keep it safe no matter what the price. He would give his own life for the Underground. He will give Ash’s life, too.

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