By the time that Annalise got home, it was nighttime and she fully expected the furiously worried Aristotle who greeted her at the door.
“Where have you been?” her guardian demanded, hands placed delicately at her hips even as she scanned Annalise over.
With a knowing smirk, Annalise spread her arms open wide so that her guardian could do a “sneaky” complete body scan with her implants. A discreet pop came when it was through, but Aristotle hadn’t stopped chastising her the entire time.
“The Lady told us that you left hours ago and it certainly doesn’t take this long to get here. Why is your chip off?”
“You mean the tracking chip that you put in me without my permission?” Annalise pointed out before pretending to think it over. “Huh, however could that have managed to be turned off?” she asked snarkily, glancing around for her brother, not spotting him, she assumed that he was in her room, waiting for Aristotle to be finished with her before giving his own opinion on her disappearance.
“Annalise,” Aristotle barked, making Annalise glance back at her as the woman’s appearance morphed into a male one, larger than the slight female one. “You’ve been disappearing far too often lately. Where are you going?”
Annalise shrugged. “Who knows?” she suggested, having not stopped the entire time in her beeline for the stairs that led to the elevator. She hopped up one step, turning to Aristotle, who had followed her. “Maybe I’m part of a gang,” she teased him, grinning as he scowled. “Ooh, or maybe I’ve started a torrid love affair.” She hopped backwards up two steps once Ari stopped at the bottom. “I could be part of a secret anti-Seer organization. That’d be fun.” She hopped up another step. “Or I could be blackmailing someone, oh, or being blackmailed.” She whistled as she hopped up two more steps. “Can you imagine?”
She laughed. “Or I could just be going to museums and walking around the city, making sure everything’s good. Could be doing that.” She winked at Ari as the man began to shift back to a woman, an exasperated one. “Why do you always think the worst of me?” she asked in a simpering tone, batting her eyelashes.
“Maybe because you’re always up to something?” Ari suggested, taking a step up.
Annalise turned and jogged up the remaining stairs, ignoring Aristotle’s sigh. “Either way, I’m safe and sound and going to bed. Early day tomorrow!” she called over her shoulder, slipping into the elevator that would take her up to the living areas. Pressing her hand against the panel, she waited until prompted to choose which room she meant to enter. “Love you, night!”
“I’ll send dinner up,” Ari called quickly before the door slid closed.
Grinning at her reflection in the silver plated elevator wall, Annalise finger combed her silver hair, pulling it back into a low, loose ponytail. Squinting, she realized that she had a chocolate smudge on the corner of her mouth, obvious against her snowy complexion. Flushing even though no one was there to witness her embarrassment, she rubbed at the smudge until it was gone and fidgeted with her skirt. She hated the long elevator rides in their home. Unlike at the old lady’s place, the lower levels and, consequently, the living areas weren’t a straight shot down, instead shifting at an angle and at times even circling back. Which meant that the ride was far longer than it necessarily needed to be and couldn’t be made faster, even if Aristotle trusted anyone enough to let them into their home and see the true architecture.
Finally, after twenty-seven seconds, Annalise stepped out of the elevator, and into her personal room, side stepping a pile of clothes that she would have sworn hadn’t been that large when she’d left earlier that day. Spotting Green sitting in his favorite wicker chair, but choosing not to acknowledge her better half because she knew it would frustrate him, she dropped face down onto her bed. After nearly a full minute of silence, Green decided to speak, because it was clear she wasn’t going to.
Before he could even finish her name, Annalise held one finger up to him. “Shhh,” she said, her voice muffled by her pillows. “It was so nice and quiet. Don’t ruin it.”
Affronted, Green stood up at the foot of her bed. “Annalise!”
Before he could start on his speech about how inconsiderate she was being, how she had a duty to the City to stay safe if she wouldn’t do it for herself, or worse, his speech about how he and Ari worried when they didn’t know where she was and couldn’t contact her for hours, Annalise held a hand up. Rummaging through her bag with her other hand, she pulled out a small container to him.
“The old lady made fresh pastries for you. Don’t lecture me, and you’ll get them.”
Green faltered for a moment. “Fine,” he huffed, taking the container from her. Instead of leaving, as she had expected, he sat on the edge of her bed. Tucking his legs under himself, he laid back, setting the container on his stomach. “There is something I would like to talk to you about, however.”
Curious, Annalise turned onto her side and wiggled until she was lying beside him. “What about?” she asked, propping her head up with one arm.
“I was looking at the farms and—”
Annalise groaned. “I thought you meant something not Seer.”
“I do,” he said, tugging on her shirt before she could turn away from him. “Listen.”
Frowning, Annalise eyed him for a moment. He was serious, and not in his normal, business-like manner. He looked away from her when she squinted and she poked him in the side, careful to avoid where his shirt had ridden up. “Go on,” she prompted.
He looked at her again, his hazel eyes unsure until locking on hers. She nodded encouragingly and he smiled ruefully. “I was looking at the farms and was thinking about how that’s where you found me.”
“Oh,” Annalise said, her eyes wide. She glanced to the elevator, hoping for Aristotle to come in at that moment. She didn’t, so Annalise took a deep breath. “Um, what’s got you, uh, why—”
“Why now?” Green asked for her. She nodded. “Well, I talked to Ari about it before, and he always told me to just ask you. But, well, I know that you don’t like to think about it, so I didn’t. But, if there’s any chance that…”
She didn’t have to sync with him to know what he meant. If there’s any chance that my parents might be alive, I want to find them. She’d known he thought about it, how could she not when they shared the same mind at least half of their lives? And he knew that, aside from finding him, that night had been the worst night of her life, one that she never talked about even with Aristotle. Still, Green had a right to know, because it was his life. It was how they had come into Aristotle’s care, how the old Seer had found them. She just didn’t want to talk about it.
Because there wasn’t a chance.
“I just—” she started to tell him that she didn’t want to talk about it, but she couldn’t. She looked down at the container. “Share a pastry?” she suggested.
Frowning, Green opened the container. “Sure, of course,” he said, offering it to her.
She took the edge of one and offered him the other side, since she didn’t want to chance a syncing from touching the same part.
Still confused, Green took the other side and both of them twisted, making the party crumble into two parts. Green caught the lemon goop from the center before it fell and, because he got the smaller half, he decided it was his share and popped it into his mouth.
Taking advantage of his full mouth, Annalise started talking. “I didn’t actually find you in the farm,” she admitted. “I had a vision of a fire. It was my first vision and I saw you, being hidden by an Outer. You remember how when we were little there was a problem with the very outer edge of the City’s defense? There was a tiny, tiny hole. Only big enough to fit someone’s head or, well, a little kid. There were a bunch of City kids being traded for things like, like guns and pretty things. And sometimes Outer kids were traded by geneticists for water and food.
“Um, so you were traded, so were a bunch of others. But that time the traders were caught. The COPS interrupted and a lot of the kids were, uh.” Annalise swallowed. “Well, the COPS used the firewall to close the hole and…well, you get it.”
Green was staring at her in horror. “They…they set them on fire?”
Annalise nodded. “Um, and it covered the whole outer wall of the City, so anyone too close was also…” she stared at the lemon pastry in her hand, trying to decide if she wanted to eat it or not. Green’s half was already half-eaten and hung limply from his hand as he stared at her.
“Did…did the Seer know?”
“Yes,” Annalise answered softly. “They ordered it.”
“But did they know about the chil—”
“I said yes!” Annalise snapped, sitting up. “They saw the whole thing and that’s how they found us. I came because I knew I had to save you. The Seer was waiting for me to get to you, and Ari intercepted the plan or knew or something was there to make sure that they didn’t kill us to stay the Seer. I don’t know. She never explained it.”
Green was silent for a long time and Annalise avoided looking at him, choosing instead to focus on her flowered bedding. “I ran away with you and Ari found us in the Green Farm.”
“So my family…”
“If they were there, they died. If they weren’t, they traded you for food and water. Either way, all you have is me and Ari.”
Green frowned, but bit into his pastry. But they might still be alive, he thought, ignoring Annalise’s words. He could understand trading another mouth for food and water. If there was a big group of the Outers, chances were that his parents hadn’t been among the traders. He doubted the traders would have had to sell any of their own. Still, knowing how Annalise felt about the entire situation, he kept his mouth shut. She had been given up to the geneticists when she was small by her parents, who’d needed the money.
He wasn’t going to abandon her, no matter what she thought. “Are you sure you don’t want to hear my new lecture about safety? I wrote it today. If it doesn’t make you more considerate of all I do for you, nothing will.”
Annalise shoved him. “All you do for me?” she laughed.
“Oh yes. I ate all of Ari’s latest attempt at gimchi so that you wouldn’t have to attempt it cold. And since I’m not the one who avoids ‘Understanding Cultures and Your Ethnicities’ night, I’m pretty sure it isn’t for my benefit.”
“Woah, woah. But who ate all of the, uh what was that weird octopus thing?”
“The pulpo a la gallega? I wanted to try that.”
“Trust me, you didn’t,” Annalise assured him. “It was chewy and horrible.”
Green sighed. “Your lacking in a taste for cultured cuisine makes my life much harder than you ever seem to recognize,” he sniffed.
“Okay then. I’ll just tell Ari that you’d love to try anything she wants to cook up.”
“Let’s not go that far.”
Next part of Chapter Four: Rich
Next part of Seer: Chapter Five