Even in sleep, I immediately registered the sudden weight on my chest and
I snapped awake. Jondy's wide, intense blue eyes gazed down at me from where she
sat straddling my torso, sitting daintily but noticeably on my stomach.
"What?" I whispered, glancing around the barracks. Everything was alright,
the others were asleep. Even Max was grabbing a few hours of slumber. I looked
back to Jondy and asked again, "What?"
"Why are my eyes blue and yours are brown?"
I considered her question. "I don't know."
"Tali's are orange. Cade's are green."
"I know, Jondy."
"Why are we different?"
Irritated at having to repeat my confession of ignorance, I instead slipped
my hands under Jondy's shoulders and deposited her firmly but gently on the
ground, sitting up at the same time. "Go to sleep."
Jondy smirked. "Me?"
"I'm not. Why are we different, Tinga?"
"Why are you asking me?"
Jondy reached out slowly and stroked her hand lightly against my half-inch
of dark hair, making me shiver a little. "You don't know," Jondy whispered
"No," I answered, slightly uncomfortable. I watched Jondy turn her head and
followed my sister's gaze, our eyes resting on Syl's empty bed.
"When's she coming back?" Jondy asked.
"I don't know," I answered softly. "Soon."
"She had brown eyes."
"Go to sleep, Jondy."
"What if she doesn't come back?" Jondy asked, turning back to me.
I hesitated. "She will," I said finally, and Jondy straightened, her
"If she doesn't come back, I'm going to kill the Colonel," she said calmly.
Then she turned on her heel and walked back to her bed.
Jondy and I leave Zack in a snowy little city on the mainland of British
Columbia called Prince Rupert and crossed the border back into the USA around
noon. It's a mountain town that I know Jondy hates because she hates the snow.
It reminds her of the escape, our feet leaving soft footprints, the cold not
bothering us for a long time, and then suddenly biting into our bones, chilling
us until the undersides of our fingernails turned red. I wonder briefly how
Jondy lost Max that night, but I would never dream to ask. It's not that I don't
care about things or that I don't get curious- I just value my privacy, and
strive to make sure my siblings maintain theirs.
"Hit me up with one of those pretzels," Jondy says to a vendor in South
Market, Seattle when we stop for provisions. I move away from 'Jake's
Traditional New York Confectionary' and order some teriyaki chicken from an
adjacent booth. "Traditional New York pretzel my ass," Jondy says as she rejoins
me, looking disappointedly at the twist of bread in her hand. "I lived in New
York. This tastes like shit."
"Most things do nowadays," I say with a smile. "I'll make pretzels for you
"That's what I love about you, Tinga," Jondy answers. "You can cook."
"And the black market connections don't hurt either," I add. I look at my
watch. "We should head back to the car if we're going to hit Oregon before
Jondy rolls her eyes but she starts back to the car with me. "Can't we hang
around Seattle for a while?"she asks. "I want to check out the Space Needle."
"It's not that great."
Jondy shrugs. "Still, I bet it's one hell of a High Place."
I shake my head. "No time." Jondy shrugs again and throw the pretzel away as
we head back to the truck we stole after crossing the border. I let her drive
because she likes to, and I like to stare out the window and think, which
usually doesn't make for very safe driving. We drove for about an hour in
silence before I felt Jondy's eyes on me every few moments. I turned to her and
gave her a questioning look.
She smiled. "Sorry... I'm trying to think of random conversation we could
have. But I'm drawing a blank, so do you want to listen to music?"
"Sure," I answered, though I didn't really want to that much. Jondy switched
on the radio and started scanning the stations.
"What do you like?" she asked.
I glanced over at her. "Classical."
Our eyes met and then Jondy turned back to the road. "Wow," she said. "I'm
so glad I'm driving." I couldn't help chuckling a little at that, and then Jondy
stumbled onto a techo station. The song that was playing was oddly familiar, and
as I listened I realized that someone had taken Mozart and warped it into some
sick form of rhythmic dance music. Jondy seemed quite impressed with herself, as
though she'd found a nice compromise. I reached over and turned off the radio.
Jondy shrugged and turned back to the road. "Fine, I won't be diplomatic,"
she said with a smile. I let out a long sigh, thinking about what was to come,
worried about what would happen when I reached Portland, what I would tell
Charlie, if I could finally work up the courage to explain everything to him.
An hour short of the Washington-Oregon border Jondy pulled into the parking
lot of a gas station/convenience store. "I'm starving," she said. "And I want a
new car... preferably one with a CD player this time."
"Do you have CDs on you?" I asked as she parked the car and we got out.
"Okay... rephrasing. Preferably one with a CD player and a pack of CDs in
it," she said with a wide smile. I rolled my eyes.
"Whatever you want," I said as we entered the convenience store. "I'm going
to grab some fruit if they've got it."
"Good luck with that," Jondy said, heading for the self-serve coffee bar. I
managed to find a couple of bananas and an apple, and grabbed that as well as a
package of trail mix. I met Jondy back at the counter, who had a half-dozen
chocolate bars and a double-americano heaped with whipped cream.
"Oh God, you're a health freak," she said, looking at my food. I shrugged
and we unloaded on the counter. "I've got this," Jondy said, getting out her
wallet as the clerk rang up our food. He glanced at me and did a double-take,
which I rolled my eyes at, hating being so beautiful sometimes.
"Aren't you the girl from the milk carton?" he asked, wide-eyed.
I stared at him. "What?" I exchanged a look with Jondy and he left the
counter to go to the fridge in the back. Jondy lifted some money from the till
as he rummaged around, and then he came back to them. He handed me a small milk
carton and I turned it over until I saw what he was talking about. The colour
drained from my face. "Yeah..." I managed. "That does look like me..." I handed
it to Jondy and she raised an eyebrow at it before putting it on the counter
with the rest of their stuff.
"We'll get this too," she said, and paid with some of the money she'd just
stolen from him. We went back out to the car and didn't say anything until we
were in it. I took the milk carton from Jondy as she started the car and looked
it, recognizing my face from a picture that Charlie had taken of me and Case a
few months after his first birthday.
I closed my eyes briefly. "I should have seen this coming," I muttered,
angry at myself for overlooking the obvious fact that Charlie would search for
me after I didn't come home. Jondy pulled the car onto the road and we resumed
our drive toward the state line.
"It's done," Jondy answered. "We're going to have to deal with it now." She
paused in thought, then added, "It's safe to say Zack doesn't know shit about
I nodded. "I doubt anyone in the family does, unless they came upon it like
"And if they did," Jondy answered for me. "Then they probably think you've
I shrugged. "Doesn't matter. Zack might have kept them informed, or not. I
really don't care. I have to find my husband and son before Lydecker finds
Jondy turned the carton over in her hands and read the fine print under the
listed ingredients and nutritional information. "I think it's a safe bet to say
he already does," she said. "This milk is at least two weeks old and who knows
how long the ad was running before then." I briefly considered calling Charlie
and warning him, telling him I was okay but that he needed to get Case out of
our apartment immediately. But the thought was fleeting, gone almost instantly.
I knew that Lydecker would have taps on the phone, people nearby watching. I had
one chance to get my family out or we could all end up back at Manticore, and I
wasn't going to let that place touch my son.
We drove in silence for a while, as I prepared myself for what was ahead. I
managed to convince Jondy to let me listen to my own music for a while, and I
found a classical station on the AM. I held the milk carton in my hands and
studied the picture, the smile on my face. I heaved a sigh and Jondy glanced
over at me, giving me a small smile. I gave her one back, but I was far too
preoccupied to even bother to make it reach my eyes. My gaze was directed back
at the carton almost immediately. I glanced behind me into the backseat and
caught sight of Jondy's large duffel.
"I'm assuming you've got some weapons in there?" I asked her. At her nod I
explained, "I didn't have time to gear up while we were jumping from one place
to another in the land of peace." I gave a snort. "Could I use you as a dealer
Jondy nodded. "Help yourself to what I have. I've got a long trip ahead of
me and I can pick up more on the way."
I nodded back to her. "I'll get strapped at the state line," I said. "We're
almost there now."
It was less than twenty minutes before we reached the turnoff to the state
sector checkpoint. Jondy pulled onto the shoulder and down a soft incline on the
side of the road, as close to the treeline as possible, killing the engine to
minimize anyone's visibility of our vehicle. I crawled into the backseat and
raided her duffel, taking a varied arsenal, not knowing exactly what kind of
conditions I would be up against. We both got out of the truck and concealed the
weapons in the hood and under the body of the truck, then I took the keys from
Jondy and she smiled at me.
"Good luck," she said. I nodded and climbed into the driver's seat, starting
"Take care of yourself, baby sister," I said to her. "Don't spend too much
time with Ben."
Jondy nodded, understanding what I was saying. She took a step back and
tapped on the roof of the truck. "I'll see you," she said. I drove the truck
back onto the road and went through the checkpoint without a hitch, driving over
the bridge and into the state of Oregon, my nerves immediately tensing to the
knowledge that I was now entering enemy terrority.