I stand at attention along with everyone else in the streets as the music for the Pledge streams into the streets. It is crowded today in the square; usually things are a lot quieter. I see people staring at me, at my nice clothing, and muttering under their breaths. I know they somehow recognize me, the second prodigal, the golden girl, the new Elector's favorite prized possession. I stare past them as if I can't hear them, as if I don't understand what they're saying. It's hopeless, though. I can read their body language, their cold stares like an open book: they know and loathe me.
Immediately after the Pledge has ended and everyone has saluted to the new Elector's glowing face on the JumboTrons, new pictures are to follow, all young men and women, different faces, all unique and beautiful, with the words "killed in combat" stamped in red across their faces. This is a new system the Republic is trying out, a new way of telling everyone that the Colonies need to be dealt with, fast. Since the events having to deal with the infamous Day and the runaway rogue "first" Prodigal, June, the Republic has gone through a world of change. That was all when I was nine. After the glorious first Elector died and his young son took his place, he began to send all eligible young men and women out into the war front.
All except for me.
I am a commodity. Merely the year after the glorious Elector died I had passed my Trial with flying colors—that is to say I am the second girl ever to get a perfect score on her Trial. The first was June, who was looked at as the greatest; I aspired to be June my whole life. As soon as it was recorded that my score had been perfect, I was not moved to the military as expected. Instead, I was whisked away to the Elector's office, the Capitol building. Stunned, flattered, and a little disappointed, I had been put in charge of practically everything in the Republic—all except for the Military and the Plague information.
I am on my way to the Capitol building now. No one there likes how accustomed I am to walking the streets like I normally do, but I find it relaxing. The people in these streets are unlike anyone I had ever met, and yet, they are exactly like them. While those in the military are rough, tough, and follow orders, these street walkers are the exact same, only disciplined for survival, not for the Republic's sake. They are people, just like those that work in the Capitol building, however underprivileged they might seem in comparison.
As I push my way through the streets, I run into a man. "Excuse me," I automatically say as I right myself and prepare to keep walking.
The man smiles down at me. He is older, wearing a military uniform, one decked out; telling me this man is a very high rank. Double striped arrows on his vest, five lines of badges from his acts in war. His hair is dark brown, streaked with some gray. When he smiles, I see that he has four golden molars in the back of his mouth. "Not a problem, young lady," he says. "You wouldn't happen to point me in the right direction of the Capitol building, would you? I can never find my way through these ruddy streets."
I do, telling him which turns to take and a shortcut I make up on the spot. He thanks me and sets out in the direction I give him.
Once I reach the building, I am ushered in by the guards that stand out front; they both solute me as I pass by. The Capitol building is magnificent, I've always thought. Beautiful marble floors and metallic tiled ceilings, my reflection shows everywhere in here, even as I start toward the front desk I can see myself in the mirrored wall behind her: Long black hair, bright blue eyes, a fine boned face, pale skin, cheeks flushed.
"Hello, Maryse," I say politely as I reach the receptionist.
She lifts her blond head and smiles. She is pretty, one of the prettiest girls in this building. I see a mark on her neck beneath her collar and bite my lip—seems as though the new Elector has noticed her as well. "How are you, Rose?" she asks as she begins to shift through papers to hand to me.
"Fine, as usual," I say. "Any papers?" I ask as she turns her office chair to look in another stack of papers.
"None that I can see," Maryse concludes, returning to the front of the desk with another smile.
"Good. Then I need to see the Elector," I reply.
She looks me up in down, judging whether or not I am serious. A sixteen year old like me should not be in the Capitol building for at least a few more years, and even at that rate it would take even longer to request to see the Elector. "May I ask why?" Maryse asks politely, but guardedly.
"There is a Colonist spy walking the streets trying to reach the Capitol building," I say with as much authority as I can.
Maryse shakes her head. "I can get you a meeting with the military's commander, Ms. Sharpe, but it would have to be extremely important for it to be the Elector's—"
"Two of them are already inside of the building, and he has a group on the outside of the building as well. All of them are armed with weapons, including bombs. Is that the Elector's business?"
I am in the elevator, making my way to the 25th floor. I had been to the penthouse of the Elector before, only a few times. The Elector had always taken a special interest in me, asking me to join him for a cup of coffee before I am to resume my duties in my office. He was tall and young to be in such a powerful position—in his early twenties, I had been told— with pale skin and dark, curling hair. His eyes intrigued me the most: though they were green and should have been inviting, they were cold and calculating. When he thought no one was looking, a troubled look came to those eyes; he was unsure of himself, very unlike his father.
When I reach his floor and am ushered into his room, he stands to greet me. His office is the same as the last time I had seen it, with a large wooden desk, tiled floor, and marble walls. There is a large window that looks out over the town, giving him a nice view of the activity that surfaces below. The room goes farther back as you look left, filled with large ornate couches, a Persian rug, and a huge fireplace. A chandelier hangs above it all.
I am tall for my age, coming to about five feet, eight inches, but the Elector is taller still; I would put him at six feet four, maybe five if I consider his hair. He is lean and precise with his movements; he was trained in a military base. The double linings of pins on his coat tell me that he was trained in the air force. He takes his jacket off, though, leaving him in a pristine white shirt and dark pants. He smiles when he greets me, though it doesn't touch his eyes. "My Rose," he says, "what a pleasant surprise."
I fight back the urge to step away from him. His stare is possessive, as if I really am his Rose. "Elector Arden," I say with a solute. He dismisses me and gestures for me to say what I have been sent up to tell him. "I believe we are being ambushed," I say.
The Elector's eyebrows pull together in concern as he considers this. He studies my face, probably wondering why I am telling him such grave news so nonchalantly. The truth is I was once taught to take everything in as neutral. If I pick sides, how am I to tell both weaknesses? Both strengths? My opinion will be tainted, biased.
"How did you come about this knowledge?" he asks, finally.
"On my own, sir," I reply. "While out in the street, I ran into a man dressed in a Captain's uniform, the most convincing one I've seen. When I looked at the buttons and lapels, though, I realized that they were the same as Captain Derting's; obvious to say that he was notCaptain Derting."
When the Elector said nothing, I continued.
"He asked where the Capitol building was, a silly mistake, seeing that if he were in fact a Captain, he would have known where it was already. I gave him faulty directions, and considering the pace he was walking, he will probably be on the corner of Juniper and Larksford now— I've already alerted the military to seek him out."
"And he has back-up, I presume?" the Elector asks in a measured tone.
I nod. "He had an ear piece on. He talked directly to about five people on the streets, and at least two or three that had already infiltrated the building. Security is seeking them out now."
Looking unsettled, the Elector sat back on the edge of his desk. "How could all of them gotten into the city undetected? I don't understand it," he said. He looks at me. "How much time do we have until—"
An explosion rocks the building before he can finish the sentence. I am thrown sideways, forcing myself to knock into the wall beside me. As I look out of the large window that makes up a good part of his office, I see flames coming from one of the window below.
The Elector curses. He picks up the command device on his desk and begins barking orders into it, sending messages to all of the guards throughout the building.
"Sir," I say, "I don't mean to overstep my boundary, but I don't think you can stop them from overthrowing the building. The best thing to do is to get you out of here and somewhere safe where they cannot find you. Once the military has been dispatched to help here, they will seize the terrorists and imprison them. In the meantime—"
Elector Arden shakes his head. "My father would not stand for this. He would stay here, go down with the ship."
"The Republic cant risk losing two Electors in such a short time. You don't have an heir to take over if you are to be killed; you need to leave and seek shelter."
His eyes rake over me desperately. He shakes his head. "I will die if I leave." He is in front of me in two strides gripping me roughly. "I haven't had time to live, Rose."
I don't know what to say. I am afraid that if I open my mouth I will merely tell him something that he does not want to hear.
"Help me live, Rose."
"You're hurting me," I say calmly.
His grip only tightens. I can see in his eyes he truly believes that he has lost control of the Republic. I can see in his eyes that he has already lost control of himself.
"Sir, you're overreacting," I say. "These are just rebels. They are here to scare the Republic, nothing more. The only weapons they were armed with were knives and a few small bombs. This is why we need to get you out of here."
His lips come down on mine, hard.
I am repulsed. He can't be seriously kissing me right now. His left hand comes up to cup my face—he is left handed. I duck out of his grip and dodge to the right while he reaches with his left. "I'll pretend that didn't happen, sir." I am more annoyed than scared. This man is not a threat, he is merely a scared boy, jumping to insane actions when forced with stress; hence the hickey he left on the receptionist's neck earlier today when he wanted to relieve the stress of all of the dead military victims.
"Come here, Rose," he commands.
I begin to edge toward the door. "Just stay in here, sir, I can go to my office and see if I can override the elevators and stairwells so that no one can get you up here."
Before I can take another step, though, he is on his command device again. "Block my door," he says. "No one comes in or out, understand?"
Distantly, I hear the electric lock on his office door sliding home.
I am trapped.
I look for a way to escape. The window is too high of a jump, and I would probably get shot if I try to scale the side of the building at such a hectic time. There are no other entrances but the air vents. Elector Arden would surely catch me before I reach the vent above his desk, though.
I have to try.
With no military training, I am left to fight with my instincts. He is left handed: keep right. Block left swing with left elbow, block right kick by shoving his leg backward. Grab reaching right arm and twist the wrist, use momentum to swing up onto the desk and through the air vent.
I begin. I dodge right, block his left swing, shove his right leg backwards. I hear a snap as I do so and he screams in pain—I must have fractured something.
As soon as I grab his right wrist, though, his left arm snakes around me. I am caught.
"Stupid girl," he breathes into my ear. "We kept you out of the military for a reason."
He drags me over to the couch and throws me onto it. He is on top of me in an instant, straddling my legs and pinning my arms above my head. "You're so pretty, my Rose," he croons as he begins kissing my neck. "I always like the dresses you wear."
Though I am screaming internally, I remain calm on the outside. "You never see me in dresses," I reply.
"I watch you, Rose. Almost every day. I like this dress the best." He nips at the sleeve.
I throw all of my weight to the side and we both careen off of the couch. Stunned, the Elector lets go of me and I am free. I race to his desk, but not before he grabs my ankle and yanks me down. I hit my head on the tiled floor and nearly black out there. I will myself to stay alert, but my consciousness is fading fast.
The Elector is on top of me in an instant, his weight crushing me. "You're going to regret that," he rasps in my ear. I moan without meaning to.
The door is kicked in with a thunderous sound. I look up to see a boy standing there, taking in the scene before him. He is dressed in all black; the only color that stands out is his golden hair and striking blue eyes. His pale skin is tinted with what looks like soot; Broad shoulders, muscular chest, arms, and legs. He seems to be around seventeen and eighteen years old.
I push myself forward while the Elector is still stunned. I don't manage to get far. He grabs my wrist and pins it to the floor. I cry out in pain.
"Who are you?" the Elector asks as smoke pours into the room through the opened door.
The boy merely smiles. "Your worst nightmare," he states in a voice made of honey. His eyes meet mine for a brief moment before he starts toward us.
I am hoisted up into the Elector's arms before he can take another step. He produces a knife and holds it under my throat. "No farther," he commands. I am only barely conscious. I pray I stay awake.
The boy stops advancing. He presses a hand to his ear so he can better understand the voice that is apparently talking to him through an earpiece. He looks at me once more, then to the Elector.
The whole building rumbles. The quake is so violent that for a second the Elector falters and I have enough time to throw myself out of his arms. Once I am out of range, the boy aims a kick to the Elector's head, non-lethal.
"Come on," he says as the Elector goes down and I am helped to my feet. He grabs my hand and leads me out into the corridor. We only pause long enough for me to realize that he had killed the two guards quickly and quietly, leaving his knife in the chest of the second guard, and that the corridor is slowly filling up with smoke. The fire is spreading throughout the building. As the frame rumbles once more, I am knocked into the boy. He steadies me and leads me toward the stairwell. We run down the stairs as fast as we can; only stopping when we see flames in the lower levels. We had effectively gone down 23 floors.
The boy curses slightly, and I fear that I can no longer grasp to stay awake. I mumble something unintelligible and fall forward. The boy catches me easily, swinging me up over his shoulder.
"You better be worth it," he says just before I am lost completely.
AN: Again, thanks for giving this story a chance! I'd really appreciate it if you guys told me what you think by a short (or long!) review! Till next time! Peace!