Home > King's Cage (Red Queen #3)(12)

King's Cage (Red Queen #3)(12)
Author: Victoria Aveyard

The lightning girl did it to save us, and for that I am always thankful. Even if she was a self-centered hypocrite, she doesn’t deserve what’s happening to her.

The Colonel gave the order to evacuate Tuck the moment we were able to radio back to him. He knew any interrogation of Mare Barrow would lead directly to the island. Farley was able to get everyone to safety, either in boats or the massive cargo jet stolen from the prison. We were forced to travel overland ourselves, hightailing from the crash site to rendezvous with the Colonel across the border. I say forced because, once again, I was told what to do and where to go. We had been flying to the Choke in an attempt to rescue a legion of child soldiers. My brother was one of them. But our mission had to be abandoned. For now, they told me every time I got enough courage to refuse another step away from the war front.

The memory makes my cheeks burn. I should’ve kept going. They wouldn’t have stopped me. Couldn’t have stopped me. But I was afraid. So close to the trench line, I realized what it meant to march alone. I would have died in vain. Still, I can’t shake the shame of that choice. I walked away and left my brother yet again.

It took weeks for everyone to reunite. Farley and her officers arrived last of all. I think her father, the Colonel, spent every day she was gone pacing the frigid halls of our new base.

At the very least, Barrow’s making her imprisonment useful. The distraction of such a prisoner, not to mention the boiling mess of Corvium, has stalled any troop movements around the Choke. My brother is safe. Well, as safe as a fifteen-year-old can possibly be with a gun and a uniform. Safer than Mare certainly is.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen King Maven’s address. Cal took over a corner of the control room to play it again and again once we arrived. The first time we saw it, I don’t think any of us dared to breathe. We all feared the worst. We thought we were about to watch Mare lose her head. Her brothers were beside themselves, fighting tears, and Kilorn couldn’t even look, hiding his face in his hands. When Maven declared execution was too good for her, I think Bree actually fainted in relief. But Cal looked on in deafening silence, his brows knit together in focus. Deep down he knew, like we all did, that something much worse than death waited for Mare Barrow.

She knelt before a Silver king and stood still while he put a collar around her throat. Said nothing, did nothing. Let him call her a terrorist and murderer before the eyes of our entire nation. Part of me wishes she’d snapped, but I know she couldn’t put a toe out of line. She just glared at everyone around her, eyes sweeping back and forth between the Silvers crowding her platform. They all wanted to get close to her. Hunters around a trophy kill.

In spite of the crown, Maven didn’t look so kingly. Tired, maybe sick, definitely angry. Probably because the girl next to him had just murdered his mother. He tugged at Mare’s collar, forced her to walk inside. She managed one last look over her shoulder, eyes wide and searching. But another tug turned her around for good, and we haven’t seen her face since.

She’s been there, and I’ve been here, rotting, freezing, spending my days rewiring equipment older than I am. All of it a bleeding waste.

I steal one last minute in my bunk to think about my brother, where he might be, what he’s doing. Morrey. My twin in nothing but appearance. He was a soft boy in the hard alleys of New Town, constantly sick from the factory smoke. I don’t want to imagine what military training has done to him. Depending on who you ask, techie workers were either too valuable or too weak for the army. Until the Scarlet Guard started their meddling, killed a few Silvers, and forced the old king into some meddling of his own. We were both conscripted, even though we had jobs. Even though we were only fifteen. The bloody Measures enacted by Cal’s own father changed everything. We were selected, told to be soldiers, and we were marched away from our parents.

They split us up almost immediately. My name was on some list and his wasn’t. Once, I was grateful I was the one sent to Corros. Morrey would have never survived the cells. Now I wish we could trade places. Him free, and me on the lines. But no matter how many times I petition the Colonel for another attempt at the Little Legion, he always turns me away.

So I might as well ask again.

The tool belt is a familiar weight around my hips, thunking with every step. I walk with purpose, enough to deter anyone who might bother to stop me. But for the most part, the halls are empty. No one is around to watch me stalk past, gnawing on a breakfast roll. More captains and their units must be out on patrol again, scouting Trial and the border. Looking for Reds, I think, the ones lucky enough to make it north. Some come here to join up, but they’re always of military age or workers with skills useful to the cause. I don’t know where the families are sent: the orphans, the widows, the widowers. The ones who would only be in the way.

Like me. But I get underfoot on purpose. It’s the only way to get any kind of attention.

The Colonel’s broom closet—I mean office—is one floor above the bunk rooms. I don’t bother to knock, trying the doorknob instead. It turns easily, opening into a grim, cramped room with concrete walls, a few locked cabinets, and a currently occupied desk.

“He’s over in control,” Farley says, not looking up from her papers. Her hands are ink-stained, and there are even smudges on her nose and under her bloodshot eyes. She pores over what look like Guard communications, coded messages and orders. From Command, I know, remembering the constant whispers about the upper levels of the Scarlet Guard. No one knows much about them, least of all me. Nobody tells me anything unless I ask a dozen times.

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