Fortitude Part 36
“You seriously want us to wait for them to force us into the king’s palace?” Teddy asked. “That sounds dangerous. We’d be under guard.”
“Not necessarily. It is unlikely they would transport you as prisoners, so the king will likely manufacture some sort of need for you to come to him, to allay suspicions. Once you’re there, then you sneak off—”
“Just like that? We lose whoever our guide is, all the guards that are always there, and traipse around looking for a way down to what must be a hidden area under the palace?” I shook my head. “Not to mention, it could be months—until after my coming of age—and I’m not willing to wait that long.”
No Name spread his hands wide. “How do you plan to get in the palace then? Just show up unannounced? Forget a guide and the guards, how do you get past the gate and the front door?”
I frowned. “I don’t know. What about you? You have a whole underground organization at your fingertips. We’re just two people.” I pointed between myself and Teddy.
“Two people with a lot of power and opportunity,” he countered.
“Potential for power. Mine are still muted until I come of age, and Teddy’s greatest power lies in his ability to reason through an idea, but he’s in a fugue when he does it. We can’t rely on our abilities.”
“We need to make our own opportunity to get inside,” Teddy said. “I don’t want to wait months; my father will only let me stay out of the printing shop for so long. Separate, we’re more vulnerable.”
He had a point—a big one. I wanted us away from both our families, away from his father’s drunken abuse and my family’s scheming falseness.
No Name appeared to consider our concerns. His gaze skittered around the room, like a mouse fleeing from the light. “We don’t like to gather. It risks drawing dangerous attention, but you’re right. Whatever happens, it will take a concerted effort.”
“What does that mean?”
“I’ll need three days.”
That long? “You can’t make things happen any faster?”
He shook his head. “It’s not like I can gather a large group of people in the city without being noticed. We operate in small groups, passing information—and people—along quietly.”
“Three days and we’ll have some sort of a plan?”
“Hopefully.” He shrugged one shoulder.
His lackadaisical attitude rubbed me the wrong way. I grit my teeth. “We appreciate your help.”
Clearly we were on our own, if we wanted to get anything done before Teddy and I were scooped up and hollowed out, our abilities drained and used for evil. There wasn’t much to say after that, and No Name left with a promise to return in three days.
Teddy tilted his head, watching me. “What are we—”
“Not here,” I said quickly.
We’d spend days purportedly in the gambling dens and alehouses while we searched the city for a way to find Schvesla’s machine—not to fix it like I always wanted to do, but to stop the king from using it for their own evil gain. I was tired, and Teddy was hurt.
“Let’s go get something to drink.”
The ale was cool and bitter, a welcome treat. My mouth was dry as I contemplated our future. Teddy sat next to me, drinking quietly. He wasn’t in a fugue, but I could tell his mind was working.
“We’re going to do something, aren’t we?”
I pushed my ale to the side, burying my head in my hands. “There’s not really any choice. We can’t just wait.” I stared at the scarred wood of the wobbly table, studying the nicks and chunks missing as if they’d reveal some map of what to do.
“We need help.”
“The people of this city are sheep, even the resistance. We need someone who isn’t afraid to do whatever is necessary to get the job done. How can everyone here be so blind? How could I have been so blind?”
Teddy put his hand on my shoulder. “You couldn’t know. Neither of us are to blame; we were both groomed to be what they wanted us to be.”
I looked up. “At least I got you out of all of this. I don’t know what I’d do if I were all alone.”
He smiled. “I’d never let that happen.”
Even before I knew I was in love with him, I’d loved Teddy. He was the one person I could always count on to know what I needed, even if he didn’t understand why I needed it. Amid my family, I felt so isolated. My parents and I had never been close—and now I knew why. I wasn’t unique, making them uncomfortable with my superior abilities, I was their cash cow.
How many other betas had been secreted out of the city to face the dangers of the wilderness in a bid for freedom from the city?
“Teddy! I think I know who could help us!”
“We came back to the city because of what Anna told us, right? But she was wrong—the king didn’t shut down the machine to force people to buy from them. They’re doing something far worse. Why didn’t she tell us that if they’re taking in the betas?”
“Maybe she didn’t trust us? I mean, look what we did. We snuck out and ran away.”
“If they’d been honest, we wouldn’t have had to! The only person who hasn’t had an agenda was Wildman. I think we need to find him. Something drove him and his friends out of the city—maybe there’s more of them, and they’d be willing to help us.”TBC
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