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Home > Prodigy (Legend #2)

Prodigy (Legend #2)
Author: Marie Lu

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

REPUBLIC OF AMERICA

POPULATION: 7,427,431

JAN. 4. 1932 HOURS.

OCEAN STANDARD TIME.

THIRTY-FIVE DAYS AFTER METIAS’S DEATH.

DAY JOLTS AWAKE BESIDE ME. HIS BROW IS COVERED with sweat, and his cheeks are wet with tears. He’s breathing heavily.

I lean over him and brush a wet strand of hair out of his face. The scrape on my shoulder has scabbed over already, but my movement makes it throb again. Day sits up, rubs a hand wearily across his eyes, and glances around our swaying railcar as if searching for something. He looks first at the stacks of crates in one dark corner, then at the burlap lining the floor and the little sack of food and water sitting between us. It takes him a minute to reorient himself, to remember that we’re hitching a ride on a train bound for Vegas. A few seconds pass before he releases his rigid posture and lets himself sag back against the wall.

I gently tap his hand. “Are you okay?” That’s become my constant question.

Day shrugs. “Yeah,” he mutters. “Nightmare.”

Nine days have passed since we broke out of Batalla Hall and escaped Los Angeles. Since then, Day has had nightmares every time he’s closed his eyes. When we first got away and were able to catch a few hours of rest in an abandoned train yard, Day bolted awake screaming. We were lucky no soldiers or street police heard him. After that, I developed the habit of stroking his hair right after he falls asleep, of kissing his cheeks and forehead and eyelids. He still wakes up gasping with tears, his eyes hunting frantically for all the things he’s lost. But at least he does this silently.

Sometimes, when Day is quiet like this, I wonder how well he’s hanging on to his sanity. The thought scares me. I can’t afford to lose him. I keep telling myself it’s for practical reasons: we’d have little chance of surviving alone at this point, and his skills complement mine. Besides . . . I have no one left to protect. I’ve had my share of tears too, although I always wait until he’s asleep to cry. I cried for Ollie last night. I feel a little silly crying for my dog when the Republic killed our families, but I can’t help myself. Metias was the one who’d brought him home, a white ball of giant paws and floppy ears and warm brown eyes, the sweetest, clumsiest creature I’d ever seen. Ollie was my boy, and I’d left him behind.

“What’d you dream?” I whisper to Day.

“Nothing memorable.” Day shifts, then winces as he accidentally scrapes his wounded leg against the floor. His body tenses up from the pain, and I can tell how stiff his arms are beneath his shirt, knots of lean muscle earned from the streets. A labored breath escapes his lips. The way he’d pushed me against that alley wall, the hunger in his first kiss. I stop focusing on his mouth and shake off the memory, embarrassed.

He nods toward the railcar doors. “Where are we now? We should be getting close, right?”

I get up, glad for the distraction, and brace myself against the rocking wall as I peer out the railcar’s tiny window. The landscape hasn’t changed much—endless rows of apartment towers and factories, chimneys and old arching highways, all washed into blues and grayish purples by the afternoon rain. We’re still passing through slum sectors. They look almost identical to the slums in Los Angeles. Off in the distance, an enormous dam stretches halfway across my line of vision. I wait until a JumboTron flashes by, then squint to see the small letters on the bottom corner of the screen. “Boulder City, Nevada,” I say. “Really close now. The train will probably stop here for a while, but afterward it shouldn’t take more than thirty-five minutes to arrive in Vegas.”

Day nods. He leans over, unties our food sack, and searches for something to eat. “Good. Sooner we get there, sooner we’ll find the Patriots.”

He seems distant. Sometimes Day tells me what his nightmares are about—failing his Trial or losing Tess on the streets or running away from plague patrols. Nightmares about being the Republic’s most wanted criminal. Other times, when he’s like this and keeps his dreams to himself, I know they must be about his family—his mother’s death, or John’s. Maybe it’s better that he doesn’t tell me about those. I have enough of my own dreams to haunt me, and I’m not sure I have the courage to know about his.

“You’re really set on finding the Patriots, aren’t you?” I say as Day pulls out a stale hunk of fried dough from the food sack. This isn’t the first time I’ve questioned his insistence on coming to Vegas, and I’m careful about the way I approach the topic. The last thing I want Day to think is that I don’t care about Tess, or that I’m afraid to meet up with the Republic’s notorious rebel group. “Tess went with them willingly. Are we putting her in danger by trying to get her back?”

Day doesn’t answer right away. He tears the fried dough in half and offers me a piece. “Take some, yeah? You haven’t eaten in a while.”

I hold a hand up politely. “No, thanks,” I reply. “I don’t like fried dough.”

Instantly I wish I could stuff the words back in my mouth. Day lowers his eyes and puts the second half back into the food sack, then quietly starts eating his share. What a stupid, stupid thing for me to say. I don’t like fried dough. I can practically hear what’s going through his head.

Poor little rich girl, with her posh manners. She can afford to dislike food. I scold myself in silence, then make a mental note to tread more carefully next time.

After a few mouthfuls, Day finally responds, “I’m not just going to leave Tess behind without knowing she’s okay.”

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