We make it back to the cabin and I’m carried to a room which looks an awful lot like it belongs in a hospital. They place me on a white bed and disappear to gather equipment, or so they claim. Eve sits on the chair beside me while we wait.
“I was so scared, Cyrus.” She grabs my hand and holds it firmly.
“Me too,” I reply hoarsely.
“You shouldn’t have run off. We’re lucky it was only Grant out there. Who knows how much attention the SPs give to a spot like this?”
“You don’t really think we should stay, do you?”
“I don’t know, Cy. They saved you. That means something, doesn’t it?”
“Does it? All it means to me is there’s some crazed Russian lady who lives in the woods who is willing to jump into the middle of a fight and kill without question. I was the one tied up in the back of an SP vehicle. Why was it Grant’s the one who got the ax? Speaking of which, you don’t seem too torn up about him getting killed.”
“I’ll admit I feel a little relieved over the whole thing. I did care for Grant. Once. But the guy’s deranged. I’m not saying he deserved to die, but I can’t say I’m incredibly sad about it.”
“Fine. But don’t you think it’s a little weird this Maxine lady was okay with killing him without even having a clue about what’s going on?”
“I don’t know, Cyrus. Maybe. On the other hand, how many times have you seen the SPs out of uniform? Maybe she saw that and immediately knew something was up. Or maybe she heard the seaplane and figured out Golden Dawn was chasing him.”
“Sure, but, to kill him before she even knows what’s going on? These people scare me, Eve. I don’t think they have our best interests at heart.”
“I’m not sure there are too many people left who do.”
“So let’s leave,” I whisper. “Why should we stay and help these people when all they’re going to do is make things worse?”
“You know the answer, Cy.”
“No, I don’t. All you ever want to talk about is caring for the less-privileged. I never used to care, why should I start now? I’m done saving the world. I just want to save myself.”
“That’s not true and you know it.”
“What’s not true?”
“That you don’t care. Sure, you put on this big show, but we both know that’s not the real you. You ruined your own record by saving me from the SPs at the Grand Canyon. You got a DNF, effectively killing your chances of ever getting another cross-country run again. That’s hardly someone who only cares about themselves.”
“Fine, I made one bad judgment call, but–”
“You know that’s not the only time. What about all the times on this run you’ve attempted to leave me behind?”
“Yeah, because I don’t need anyone to run with me. I’m a solo act.”
“No, you did it because you wanted to keep me safe. You knew this was dangerous and tried to keep me from getting hurt.”
“Fine, so I’ve got a stupid soft spot for girls. That doesn’t mean anything.”
“But it’s not only girls. I’ve looked over your record, Cy. Time and again you’ve risked your neck to help others. I counted over twenty times where you were almost nabbed by the SPs because you were trying to help other runners. Most of those people you helped were notably not female. As it turns out, I’m the only girl on the list.”
“That’s the code of the runner, Eve.”
“No, it’s not. The code of the runner is every man for himself. That’s a code you most definitely don’t live by.”
“What are you getting at, Eve?”
“I’m saying you’re a lot more selfless than you want to let on.”
“Shut up. I’m a jerk and you know it.”
“We both know you wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if you went through on this idea of hiding out in Canada as this country tears itself apart, especially since there’s something you could do about it.”
“But there isn’t. No one in this whole idiotic country seems to care a lick about making things better and it’s stupid to think I can do anything about it on my own.”
“You won’t be doing it alone, Cy.”
“Right, so, two of us against the world. That evens the odds.”
“What about your parents?”
“What about them? They’ve been working for the government my whole life, lying to me all the time, and never once showing any interest in me or what I’m up to until they need my help.”
“Fine. But we could make our own way. Maybe this is a start to our own revolution, to our own path of making this country what it truly should and could be, a country of love and peace and—“
“Whoa,” I cut in. “I don’t know if you’ve taken a look around lately, but if there’s one thing this country could never be, it’s one of love and peace.”
“Respect then,” she corrects herself. “Maybe the initial idea of democracy can live on if we can teach people how to compromise, how to recognize there are other people on this land who have different needs and should be considered when making laws or whatever. You’re right, all of these groups seem to have one thing in common, they want to take over and gain power. Maybe we could be the ones who want to take over but absolutely don’t want the power. We just want change.”
“Sounds pretty fishy to me.”
“Maybe it is. But maybe it’s what we all need. Think about it.”
“Yeah, sure, whatever. I’ll think about it.”
There’s a silence in the air as those words bounce around in my mind. Finally, Eve breaks the silence.
“So, you know, we never really talked about what happened in the bathroom back in Tonawanda.”
I feel my cheeks heat up as I answer sheepishly. “What do you mean what happened?”
“You know what I mean.”
I had really thought she had been asleep. It’s not like I’ve stopped thinking about it for a single moment since it occurred. Even when escaping Fort Devens, I couldn’t help but have an image of her from that moment in my mind. But I had assumed she wasn’t even aware.
“Cyrus?” she asks. “Are you going to tell me why you left me alone in Tonawanda?”
“Oh.” I shrug. “I don’t know. I thought it would be best if we split up, you know? Didn’t think you’d go off and get captured immediately afterward.”
Eve’s smile grows bigger.
“You know what.”
“I wasn’t sleeping you know.”
“I know,” I lie. “You did talk to me or whatever.”
“Shouldn’t we discuss it?”
“Me leaving you? I don’t know if–”
“No, you know.”
I stare her down, trying to determine what she wants to get out of this conversation.
“I’m just saying,” she continues, “you did kiss me after all.”
“Yeah, I guess I did.”
“So, don’t you want to talk about it?”
“What is there to talk about?”
“Well, you know, I mean, um, it’s—“
“Sorry for keeping you waiting.” Bruno bursts into the room. Saved by the obnoxious ruler of a secret organization. I guess that’s one point in favor of the Golden Dawners. Golden Dawnites? Whatever.
“Oh, um, hi.” Eve awkwardly stands to let Bruno past her.
“So, I couldn’t find the portable MRI machine. Things have been a real mess around here since they moved most of the operation to central Boston.”
“MRI?” Eve asks. “Do you think it’s serious?”
“No, not at all. But since you two are such an important part of our cause right now, we can’t take any risks. And we definitely can’t sit around waiting a week to make sure your brain isn’t going to explode.”
“I feel pretty good now,” I reply. “I think it was from the—“
“Don’t worry, though. I found the next best thing.” He reaches into the bag he rolled into the room and pulls out a weirdly shaped plastic cup, attached to a hose.
“What’s that?” I ask, my memories of the dentist coming back at the sight of the clear plastic face mask.
“An oxygen mask. Nothing to be concerned about.” Bruno unravels the hose and pulls a cord out from the interior of the black bag. “There’s been some testing over the years which suggests hyperbaric oxygen therapy might be a great way to deal with a concussion, as it brings extra oxygen to the brain and can help heal things faster. Of course, there are fears it can make things worse because of how it—“
“Make things worse?” I sit up in agitation. “We don’t even know I have a concussion!”
“Right, so this is our best option. If you don’t have a concussion, the worst that could happen is you’ll get a little sleepy from the extra oxygen. But at least with this we can feel a little better about the idea of sending you back on the road. Second Impact Syndrome is nothing to joke about, you know.”
“No, I don’t know,” I answer. “And who says I’m going back on the road for you? In case you don’t remember, I was on my way out the door. No, I was already out the door before that creep kidnapped me.”
“Oh,” Bruno says shortly. “I had assumed since we had—“
“You’ve got no right to assume,” I shout. “I didn’t sign up for any of this. I was going to do a simple little run to Boston. I didn’t want to be part of any revolution, or espionage, or whatever else. I only wanted make a little money.”
I bat away the mask Bruno holds before me and start to climb out of the bed, feeling my head spin as I change my position. I trip over myself slightly as my feet hit the floor and hold onto the wall for balance.
“Careful, Cyrus,” Bruno cautions. “Even if you don’t have a concussion, your head needs time to heal.”
“Screw healing,” I reply. “I’m out of here. Eve, if you want to come with, now’s the time. Otherwise, tell my parents I want The Geek out of The Agora’s clutches now.”
“Cyrus,” Eve says softly, offering herself as a crutch. “I’ll go with you anywhere, but maybe it’s time to rest, just for a minute.”
I lean against her and point to the door. “We can rest when we’re in Canada. For now, we’re getting ourselves as far away from here as possible.”
We get to the door and Eve pushes it open. On the other side stands a pudgy little menace.
Go to Chapter Seventeen