Heading for the library, I kept my ears strained for any noise out of place. I almost wished I had better hearing, but I reminded myself I was merely on edge. There was nothing wrong with any of my abilities.

"I just d– …stand."

It would be dangerous to get closer, if I guessed correctly who that Alchemist was talking to. My curiosity won over; what did he not understand? I stayed in the dappled shade of the trees, doing my best to remain out of sight. My magic rose up around me protectively, yet I had no idea how well it would be able to hide me. I stuck to the physical things I could do.

"You were placed here solely to befriend her, Cyrus. That vampire affair with the princess can wait, as Sydney is already taking care of it. If you do not find out how she has become so well protected, how will we ever bring her to justice?"

A tiny smile played at my lips. For the first time I could remember, my father was worried about something, almost to the point of fearfulness. It stood with reason, too. I could have been raising an army against them, for all they knew.

Oh, wait. I was.

As the voices faded into nothingness, I decided to take my chances. By the sound of the conversation, they did not want to kill me yet. I was too extraordinary, too unexplained. While the Alchemists loved a good mystery, they loved being the know-it-alls more. They believed me to be the missing puzzle piece. They had no clue that I was not the ringleader, and I intended to keep it that way for as long as possible.

"Mind if I walk with you, Sydney?" Before I could answer, Cyrus had already fallen into step with me.

I checked my impatience. "Is there any particular reason you'd like to?"

"I was brought here in case you needed help. So far I haven't exactly been able to do my job." We halted outside the library. "Forgive me for being intrigued."

When I turned to face him fully, I was astonished to see shadows circling under his blue-gray eyes. His near-black hair was tousled, something I thought I would never see on an Alchemist until the Re-education Center, and there was a bruise starting to form on his jaw. It would leave a nasty mark if he didn't ice it later. I swallowed hard, hoping against hope that it wasn't my father's doing.

"Tell me, Cyrus," I began, unable to stop myself. "Are you happy with the Alchemists?"

Discomfort passed over his features. "Why do you ask?"

"I'd bet that Jared Sage gave you that little trophy." I gestured to his injured face. "And that it isn't the first time one of your superiors decided to discipline you. Each Alchemist has his or her own way of coping, and of getting what they want." I fold my arms across my chest. "My older sister, Carly, has been lucky enough to escape the life she didn't want. I am working toward that for myself. I also hope that I can rescue Zoe, the youngest of the family, as well as get my mother out of that wretched house where she's abused." If I was going to succeed, I had to play my cards right. "I have many allies, Cyrus. I could save many people if I wanted. But, tell me this: How can I save people who don't know they want saving?"

I could tell I struck a nerve by the determined set of his mouth. "You're playing with fire, you know. I could report you and get you locked away again." I liked him defensive. It meant I was that much closer.

"You could," I agreed slowly, as if mulling it over. "And yet, you won't. Obligation doesn't take precedence to your well-being, does it?"

"What do you want, Sydney?" he sighed.

Biting back my triumph, I shrugged noncommittally. "It's a dangerous task that I want you for. I should know; I was caught doing it myself." I emitted a nostalgic sigh. "The days before my capture were some of the best. Now I'm on the outside looking in, when I need intel on the Alchemists' plans."

His gaze darkened. "If I get caught–" He paused and then started over. "I'm not as lucky as you, to have guardian friends. I won't be able to make it out alive." He didn't call them evil, though. He actually used a proper name.

I smiled disarmingly. "I never said I would let you in to help me. If you want to, I suppose I could use your assistance." He could take all of this back to my father. He had no real proof of anything at the moment. "We would get you out alive. I don't leave allies behind." I walked into the library without saying anything else.

Manipulating people was something I hadn't really learned, not face-to-face. I was careful enough that if he went to Jared, nothing would be wrong. At the same time, if he joined up with the resistance, everything could go so much more smoothly. Awash in rebellious thoughts, I walked over to the computers. There was one more thing I had to take care of before the night was over.

Zoe and my mother were still in that prison. My newest task was to get them out.