The 100 - Day 21 / Стоте - Ден 21: ГЛАВА 7

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Glass and Luke were silent as they left his flat for the very last time. As they stepped into the eerily empty corridor, Glass reached for Luke’s hand, shocked by the silence. The chaos that had overwhelmed the ship for the past few days seemed to have died down, washed away by a heavy tide of despair. The dim ceiling lights flickered wearily, like an exhausted child trying to keep his eyes open.


They took the main stairs quietly, finally reaching the lower levels of the ship, which were used to house the electrical and plumbing systems. Neither spoke until Glass pulled Luke to a stop in front of the air vent, then reached up to remove the grate.


“Please,” Luke said. “Allow me.” He pulled the grate from the wall and placed it on the ground with exaggerated delicacy. “And to think, all those hours I spent worrying what kind of date to take you on, it turns out we could’ve gone on a romantic crawl through the ventilation system.”


“It’s all your influence,” Glass said, managing a smile despite the prickle of tears she could feel building behind her eyes.


“What?” Luke reached out and ruffled her hair. “Slumming it?”


Glass rose up onto her toes to give him a kiss. “Being adventurous.”


Luke pulled her into a hug. “I love you,” he murmured into her ear. Then he boosted her into the vent, waited for her to climb inside, and replaced the grate.


Glass paused for a moment to wipe away the tears threatening to obscure her vision. “I love you too,” she whispered, knowing that Luke wouldn’t be able to hear it. Then she gritted her teeth and began to crawl down the narrow metal chute.


As she slowly made her way forward, straining to see in the dim light, Glass tried to imagine the look on her mother’s face when she opened the door. Would she be overwhelmed with relief? Or would part of her still be furious that Glass had risked her life by sneaking onto Walden? The thought of all the pain she’d caused her mother over the past year made Glass’s heart cramp. If this was the end, then she needed one last chance to apologize, one final opportunity to tell her how much she loved her.


Glass winced as her ankle knocked against the metal wall. If someone had told her two years ago that she would someday crawl through an air vent from Walden to Phoenix, she’d have laughed in their face. Things had been different then—she had been different. She smiled in the darkness. Now her life might be in danger, but it was finally one worth fighting for.


“… when the Cataclysm struck, there were one hundred and ninety-five sovereign nations, although the vast majority had joined one of the four major alliances.”


Glass yawned, covering her mouth halfheartedly. Their tutor had dimmed the lights to make the holograms easier to see, so there was little chance that she would notice that Glass wasn’t paying attention.


“In the first six weeks of World War Three, nearly two million people were killed…”


“Cora,” Glass whispered, leaning over the desk. “Cora.”


Cora lifted her head and blinked sleepily at Glass. “What?”


“… and in the next six months, more than five million died of starvation.”


“Did you get my messages?”


Cora rubbed her eyes, then blinked again, activating her cornea slip. She squinted as she scrolled through her unread messages, including one from Glass asking if she wanted to go to the Exchange after tutorial.


A few seconds later, there was a flash in the top right corner of Glass’s vision field. She blinked as a message from Cora appeared. Sure, if we’re fast. I have to meet my mother at 3.


Why? Glass blinked back.


Greenhouse duty


Glass smiled. “Greenhouse duty” was Cora’s family’s code for when they took an extra visit to the solar fields. It was totally illegal, but the guards turned a blind eye because Cora’s father was the Resources Chief and no one wanted to risk upsetting him. Glass didn’t really care that Cora’s family got the best produce this way—her family had perks of their own—and Cora let her come over for fresh berries every now and then.


“Yes, Clarke?” The tutor gestured toward a girl in the front row who had her hand raised. Glass and Cora rolled their eyes. Clarke always had a question, and the tutors were so delighted by her “intellectual curiosity” that they let her babble on, even after class was supposed to have ended.


“Had any species already gone extinct? Or did that all happen after the Cataclysm?”


“That’s an interesting question, Clarke. By the middle of the twenty-first century, at least a third of the…”


“I wish she’d go extinct,” Glass muttered, not bothering to blink it to Cora as a message.


Cora laughed, then sighed and placed her head back on her desk. “Wake me up when it’s over.”


Glass groaned. “That girl needs to get a life,” she whispered. “If she doesn’t shut up, I’m going to float her.”


After their tutor finally dismissed them, Glass jumped to her feet and grabbed Cora’s hand. “Come on,” she whined. “I need to find buttons for that dress.”


“Are you going to the Exchange?” Clarke asked eagerly, looking up from her desk. “I’ll come with you. I’m trying to find a pillow for my friend.”


Glass ran her eyes up and down Clarke’s ensemble of pants and a shirt so dowdy, they could’ve come from the Arcadia Exchange. “You can burn those pants, stuff the ashes into the shirt, and voilà , a new pillow for your friend and one less eyesore for us.”


Cora burst out laughing, but the thrill of accomplishment Glass was expecting never came. Clarke’s eyes widened with hurt and surprise, then she pressed her lips together and spun away without a word.


Whatever, Glass thought. That’s what she gets for being a suck-up and ruining everyone else’s day.


Since they’d been kept late, Cora didn’t wind up having time for the Exchange, so Glass went home. She hated shopping by herself. She didn’t like the way the guards stared at her when the officer in charge wasn’t looking. Or the way men stared at her when their wives weren’t looking, for that matter.


On the walk back, she thought about ways to make her father give her more of their ration points. The Remembrance Day Celebration was coming up, and for once, Glass was determined to have a prettier dress than Cora.


She scanned into the flat and tossed her school bag on the floor. “Mom?” she called. “Mom, do you know where Dad is?”


Her mother wandered out from her bedroom. Her face was pale under her artfully applied blush, and her eyes glistened strangely, though it might’ve just been a trick of the light. “What’s wrong?” Glass asked, looking over her shoulder. She wished her father would get here. She never knew what to do when her mother was in one of her moods. “Where’s Dad? Is he still at work? I want to talk to him about my allowance.”


“Your father’s gone.”


“Gone? What do you—?”


“He left us. He’s moving in with”—she closed her eyes for a moment—“that girl from the committee.” Her voice was flat, as if she’d tucked her emotions away as neatly as one of her elaborate dresses.


Glass froze. “What do you mean?”


“It means your allowance is the least of our problems,” Sonja said, sinking onto the couch and closing her eyes. “We have nothing.”


Her feet were cramping and her hands were raw by the time Glass crawled around the corner of the vent that led onto Phoenix. She prayed there wouldn’t be guards on the other side, that she’d be able to turn right around and bring Luke back with her. With everything that was going on, surely she could keep Luke out of sight until they made it to her mother’s flat, and then figure out how to get onto one of the dropships.


Back when she first thought of going to Earth—when she was pulled from her Confinement cell and told that she and ninety-nine others would be sent to the surface on a dropship—the idea of the planet had filled her with terror. But now, a different image of life on the ground began to take shape. Holding hands with Luke as they walked through the woods. Sitting on the top of a hill in perfect, contented silence as they watched a real sunset. Perhaps some cities had survived—what if they could go to Paris like the couple on Luke’s plates?


She was smiling as she reached forward to grasp the grate on the Phoenix side, but she couldn’t take hold. Her fingers scratched around for purchase and found nothing. She could feel the edges of the vent; something flat was covering it, sealing it shut from the other side.


Glass rolled over so her feet were facing the end of the air shaft. She took a deep breath and kicked. Nothing happened. She kicked again, this time crying out in frustration when the grate rattled, but stayed in place. “No!” she exclaimed, wincing as her voice echoed through the vent. Camille must’ve blocked it off from the other side to keep anyone from following her. It made sense—one Walden stowaway had a much better chance of staying hidden than a whole stream of them. But in doing so, she’d sentenced Glass and Luke to die.


Glass hugged her knees to her chest, trying not to imagine the look on Luke’s face when she told him the path was blocked. How he’d use every ounce of self-control to look stoic and brave, but wouldn’t be able to keep the despair from flickering in his eyes.


She’d never get to see her mother. When the oxygen finally ran out on Phoenix, Sonja would be all alone, huddled in her tiny flat as she wheezed a last good-bye to the daughter who’d disappeared without a word.


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