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Authors: Daryl Banner

Outlier: Rebellion (7 page)

BOOK: Outlier: Rebellion
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Then he turns all the way. She’s gone.

And then, to his horror, he finds he isn’t holding the bank bag anymore. How’d that happen? He grabs at his pockets, clutches his jacket, his sides … It’s gone. “What the fuck?” Panic worms its way up his body, wrapping his neck like a snake, strangling him. He can’t return to The Wrath without the bag, without his mission.
No fucking way.
He sprints forward, certain the girl couldn’t have gone far. “Give it back!” he cries out. “That was mine! GIVE IT BACK!” His eyes blind with rage, the water deafening, his lungs still cramped as though he’d taken twenty hits in the chest, he screams, “THIEF!!”

She’s nowhere. Gone in an instant. Not in the water. With nowhere to hide down here, it’s like she never existed. A ghost in the waterway, taking from him his prize of the night. That bag, it meant the black band from Dran. It meant acceptance into The Wrath. It meant …

“THIEF!!” he screams again, again and again and again until his voice breaks, but no one’s there to hear it.

His voice rings bloody with his howls, echoing and dying in the endlessly branching tunnels of the waterway. He yells and he cries until tears are squeezed out of his face. He swings a fist only twice into the wall before his knuckles draw their own blood.

 

 

000
5
 
Kid

 

 

No matter where she looks, there’s a family. She can’t walk the streets without tripping over one. She turns a corner and finds another sweet mommy and daddy … brothers, sisters, cuddling and loving and all that.

She had a family once.

When she was six, her mommy told her, “I’ll be right back,” and wasn’t. Same night, daddy told her to go hide. Kid hid alright, just like she was told, no hard thing. But perhaps daddy didn’t count on her hiding under the table in perfect view of him answering the door.

Right where he was killed.

When the masked men finished the deed, daddy hit the ground and his eyes couldn’t find her. His eyes couldn’t find her because she went invisible, hiding like she was told. Even in his final moment, she stayed hidden, couldn’t let him see his girl this one last time.

No hand can stop death … Not even an invisible one.

After her parents were gone, it wasn’t too hard for a while. She stayed in that same house while it remained unoccupied, even after the strange men came in and removed her dad’s body. All alone, she ate the things in the kitchen, whatever her little six-year-old hands could find. Then the food ran out. Next logical thing to do was steal from the neighbors. Shielding herself with invisibility, she hunted for the most precious of foods in the slums: sweets, candies, colorful treats. Not so great an idea, she discovered, curled up in the kitchen that night clutching her belly in agony, the aches and the cramps and the way it felt like a beast’s talons had wrapped about her whole body and wouldn’t let go.

That night lasted forever.

She cried for mom and dad, even called out for them, certain they were just in the other room. Mom would come back at any point now, ask her what she needed, why she was crying. Surely daddy’s in the other room reading the paper in his favorite chair. She just had to call out louder, get his attention …

Didn’t matter how loud she cried, no one came anymore. Obviously. Who would.

Days went by. Weeks. But to a girl of that age, time becomes strangely unimportant. The first thing she learned was to be observant. Every little change in the sounds of the house, she noticed. The way the walls breathed and bent with the change of weather outside. How the windows creaked and the doors squeaked and the floorboards settled just hours after midnight. She learned the heartbeat of the house.

Then one day she did something rather dumb, just for fun. She went over to a neighbor’s and found a boy named Landy sitting in the yard, a boy she used to play with. She turned visible. He saw her and screamed. She didn’t understand his reaction until he started calling her a ghost, his face losing color, and then he passed out—dropped to the lawn like a stone.

Apparently word in the neighborhood was, the whole family was murdered, herself included. An hour later, she crept into the house, invisible, and listened quietly as the boy was calmed down and fussed over by the parents. “It wasn’t real,” they said. “It wasn’t real, it wasn’t a ghost. Just your imagination,” they said, convincing this boy she’d played with since they were babies that his friend next door was dead. They were all dead.

Kid felt so strange, listening to this. Neither sad nor angry nor hurt. She just felt … nothing. Maybe this is what ghosts feel.

After the incident with Landy, life became harder for her. Guardian were sent to her house and they swept it clean, turned over everything, taking anything of value. Seeing all this, she’d had enough. Turning visible, she screamed at them, “Go away!!—This is
my
house!”

Of course that didn’t go well, for it then became a game of evading capture. Worming invisibly under tables and through crevices and in and out of doors, she escaped the men and tore off down the street.

For days after, she was too afraid to return home. Getting food was a touch more difficult when she could not manage her way into a house, especially after learning that sweets aren’t the best way to keep appetites away. Then one brave and ugly morning, she crept back to her neighborhood unseen and watched her house from across the street. It had been occupied by another family. A new family. She could swear she saw a mommy tucking her child into bed upstairs, shadows dancing along the window curtains. There’s no telling how many weeks have passed since her own mommy tucked her in, how many months, how many years.

She was six when it all was taken from her. She might be seven now, maybe eight or nine or ten. She was never good at counting, never needed to be.

And she has no idea how much shiny is in this pink bag she took from the kid in the waterways, but she’s sure it’s enough to secure several days’ food.

I’m sorry,
she says to the liar-boy from the waterways.

She’s so tired of stealing. It’s about time she got herself a real and true dinner … Food she’s truly paid for. The bakery smells so good and she’s walked by it so many times, but was never able to manage getting close enough to the bread.
Don’t squeeze into tight places,
she taught herself. Even unseen, she can still be caught like a rabbit in a net; she’d just be an invisible rabbit.

The moment she speaks up, trying to buy a loaf, the baker brushes her off, irritated, telling her to bother another store. “We don’t serve your kind,” he grunts, bending over to continue arranging loaves in the store window. Kid doesn’t give up. “But I’m hungry.” The baker scoffs at her, so she drops a coin on the counter. “Isn’t this enough for bread?”

The baker needles one eye at it, wrinkles his face and says, “We don’t accept Sanctum scum for money, kid. Get out of my store with that gold scum before I bake you into a cake.”

“Hey, hey,” interjects a scruffy-faced man behind the counter, one of the baker’s men. “She’s just a little kid. Why not a blueberry muffin or so, boss?”

“Out!” screams the baker.

To the street Kid goes, taking back her Sanctum scum, or whatever he called it. So much for an honest pay.
What good is the shiny things,
she wonders sadly,
if the shiny things get me nothing?
She kicks the ground, vanishes, and plops onto the curb to sulk.

A hand of minutes later, the voice of hunger outcries the voice of properness, and a bag of dough bites goes missing and unmissed from another shop down the road.

She follows the scruffy-faced man home. He was so nice at the bakery and it’s hard not to be drawn to such people. The man enters his house, kissing a girl’s cheek on the way in. Must be his daughter, the girl dangling her legs over the ledge of the porch.

Kid grips the bag of gold tightly, regrets the way she came into possession of this thing. She knows it didn’t really belong to the kid in the waterway—the one called Link is a liar, she knew that for fact—so in truth, she’s simply stolen a stolen thing.

But stealing this bag of gold from him still doesn’t sit well on her conscience, the bittersweet tang of vengeance.
Link wasn’t like the others,
she reminds herself, feeling guilty.
He was … different. He was …
But he’s a liar the same, isn’t he?

She’s going to make right of it. She’s going to pay him back. Yes, even a liar, Link. Somehow. Someday … she must.

Kid takes a single coin out, pockets it with a kiss. Souvenir, call it. Then, still unseeable, she tiptoes as close to the girl as she dares and pitches the bag into the lawn.

The girl looks up, her twirling legs stopped, and listens. After a moment of curiosity, the girl investigates the sound and happens upon the spilled bag of shiny. Once peeked into, her eyes grow double. “Dad!” she cries out, racing up the steps. “Dad! Dad!” And she’s vanished into the house.

Kid beams happily. The world’s never fair quite the way it ought to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

000
6
 
Wick

 

 

This time Wick’s not going to hold back. It’s lunch hour again, and Tide’s pushed into his brother on the way to his table, knocking Link into a spread of mud. A few daring words are exchanged, hissing and yelling, a derisive laugh wiggles out of Tide’s puffy chest, and Wick can’t stand for it anymore.

“You leave my bro alone,” he hears himself saying, reacting faster than logic or reason can keep up.

Wick has taken up a long, firm stick into his hand as he approaches, and he’s gripping it the right way, bending at the knees like his dad taught him. All the training is about to pay off.

“You look like an idiot,” says Tide, observing him.

“I’m about to rearrange your face.”

“Please, don’t embarrass yourself. Not with all these people watching.”

Wick lunges without warning, the stick scoring one solid hit on Tide’s side, but it has so little effect, bouncing off his bicep and sending tremors up Wick’s own arm. Then suddenly a gust of sharp wind picks up from nowhere, stealing the weapon quite deliberately from Wick’s hand and knocking him over in the same effortless motion.

Tide claims the stick and shouts, “You’ve been a bad, bad boy, Wick!” Tide wallops him over the ass with it, spanking him several times as he squirms, scrambling to his feet and trying to get away. “Bad boy, bad boy!” Tide keeps shouting with each swat, then cackling hysterically. Everyone is laughing, Wick can hear them, his rage growing the worse by it. “You’re such a bad boy!”

Then the stick snaps in half on the final swing, and Tide tosses Wick aside with another brush of wind, walking off in a cloud of laughter with his cronies.

Wick spends no time rubbing his sore spots or taking notice of the blood drawn from his cheek, and he doesn’t pursue it further. He just gets up and turns his face from the crowd, none of whom bothered to step in, preferring to be entertained instead. He spots Link a few strides away, but being roughed up from his own fall, he’s marching off without a word. Why is he being so cold? Wick was only trying to help. Link had come home so late the day before, nearly by dawn. He looked a mess too and smelled like the sewers, but there’s really no taming the anger-ball that is Link. A part of Wick fumes that his mom is often so oblivious, hardly concerned when Link came through the door, filthy and brooding.

His thighs sing red tunes, and when most of the yard is clear, Wick notices Rone and his sister watching. The look in their eyes is unreadable … Wick dares wonder if that look is one of proudness, curiosity, or pity.

His ass stings too much to care.

Professor Frey is pacing the front of the classroom, speaking on the structures of government and the current regime of King and three Marshals and their guard and the Guardian and—
Who cares.
Wick had winced when he sat at his desk, inspiring a breathy chuckle from Tide in the corner of the room, but he ignored it. Wick took the seat next to Rone, since it was empty, and now he listens halfheartedly to the lesson, taking notes and struggling to ignore the pain he’s in.

Professor Frey poses a rhetorical question about the King and his Marshals, asking what kind of world we would have without Sanctum. Rone, ever so quietly, whispers, “A world without a screaming King.” No one heard but Anwick Lesser. Those words, he feels like they were meant for his ears only.

When school is out for the day, Link has obviously hurried ahead, not bothering to wait up. Wick makes a rash decision, doesn’t board his own train, but instead follows Rone and his sister onto the nine-four and sits near the back, trying his best to be discrete. He’s still intrigued by what he overheard Rone say in class … It felt like a secret was shared with him, but what was it? He isn’t even certain why he found it so intriguing, other than the fact that such statements are dangerous to make aloud … illegal, punishable. And coming from Rone, the straight, note-taking, rule-abiding class smarty.

It just doesn’t make sense.

The train lurches to a stop, and it seems like the whole world gets up to debark. In the mess of people, Wick loses track of Rone. He jumps to his feet, pushes through families, shoves between couples, stumbling over his own legs to catch up … but he’s lost him. He’s not even sure what he was hoping to find, and now it’s too late … He was slow and clumsy.

BOOK: Outlier: Rebellion
6.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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