Pria is learning to live outside the rigid confines of Sanctuary making new friends and learning new skills. . For a woman who was recently a cog in the great United World Order, she ‘s becoming an individual with a name, feelings, and aspirations.
Out of the two men in her life, Pax continues to fascinate her, despite Henri’s interest in a relationship between them. Pax, however, continues to avoid any deeper intimacies beyond a couple of kisses, even as he always seems to be in the right place to save her any time she’s in a tough spot or under fire. With his severe headaches, there is definitely something wrong with Pax, and, despite all of Pria’s attempts, he manages to keep her at arm’s length.
In the meantime, the UWO forces are becoming more sophisticated, and it will take Pria stepping up to put her life on the line one more time to find a way to convince the other rebels to rise up as a single entity against a common enemy.
Following the horrors she discovered in the basement of Sanctuary and her miraculous rescue at the end of Breeder, there is no longer any doubt in Pria’s mind that the Unified World Order and their goals for humanity are wicked. But convincing the rest of the world will be another story. When it’s revealed that the files she’d stolen from Sanctuary are worthless to the rebel cause, Pria and the other Free Patriots must scramble to come up with another way to convince the rest of the criminals to rise up in open revolution before the UWO’s monsters hunt down and destroy them all. But Pria still knows so little about liberty and self-determination, and her tenuous grasp of human nature complicates her role in the rebellion as she finds herself torn between Pax, her ever-present protector, and Henri, her good-natured friend. As she works through figuring out her feelings, she becomes increasingly anxious for Pax, who displays symptoms of a disturbing ailment, even as he withdraws from Pria.
Free Patriots from outside Asylum bring with them a new plan to infiltrate the seemingly impregnable UWO machine, and Pria is once again at the center of the plan. This time, though, she must be willing to erase her identity, just as she’s beginning to figure out who she is. It’s a sacrifice she thinks she’s ready to make to take down the UWO and save the world, but she has no idea just how difficult it will be.
“We hadn’t planned on going out today,” Lovey says, “but we can make an exception. You won’t learn to hunt overnight.”
I’ve been turning in circles, studying the menagerie of animals in Lovey Dovey and Moon’s apartment. A squirrel, some mice, and even a fox. There are pigeons cooing quietly in their cages, and songbirds tweeting relentlessly. I don’t know how Lovey and Moon manage to sleep in here with all the noise.
“I’m sorry,” I say, “but it’s just Moon who hunts, right? You take care of live animals.”
“Mostly,” Lovey says. “I do some trapping, too, and keep her company.”
“Is there anybody else who goes with you?” I ask.
“We have a crew of regular hunters,” Moon says. “There is safety in numbers.”
“I’ll go see who’d like to join us today,” Lovey says. She trots off, leaving Moon and me alone.
I give Moon a tight-lipped smile, and she smiles back.
After a moment, she asks, “Do you know how to handle a weapon?”
“Not really, no.” Pax has shown me a few things, and I remember that first morning with him in the abandoned apartment. “I know how to shoot the basic weapons,” I say, patting my Ringer, “but that’s about all.”
“We use bows and arrows to hunt,” Moon says.
I frown, remembering ancient-looking pictures in my Agoge lessons. “Like in the old, old days?” I ask.
“Yes,” Moon says. “They are efficient. And silent. And they do less damage to the meat.” She goes to open a trunk along the wall, crooning a few words to the fox as she passes its enclosure. She returns with a curved wooden bow and a sheath of red-feather-tipped arrows. “Would you like me to show you how?”
Moon spends the next hour showing me the proper way to hold the bow and arrows, how to stand, how to breathe, and how to sight down a notched arrow. She even lets me release a couple of arrows into a target on the wall, which I barely hit even though it’s only twelve feet away. By the time Lovey Dovey returns, my arms and shoulders are burning. It’s been too long since I’ve exercised.
“All right. Our usual crew is gathered,” Lovey says. She hands me a camouflage parka to put over my clothes. “Use that instead of the jacket you have on. We should all wear camouflage, and it’s gotten cold out there.”
I shrug out of my black jacket and into the one she’s handed me.
“I ran into Wallace on the way,” Lovey continues. “He asked me when we could find him another cloned animal, but I told him we don’t have time today. Maybe tomorrow.”
Moon pulls on a camouflage jacket and then gathers the bow and arrows.
“In the meantime, your friend Pax asked if he could come along. I told him to wait with the guys in the hangar.”
I frown. I thought he’d given up on coming but apparently not. I buckle my gun belt around the outside of the parka.
“Keep that handy,” Moon says, nodding toward my Ringer. “You won’t use it to hunt, but there are always perils out in the wild.”
“I know,” I say. “I remember.”
We leave their apartment and make our way down the winding cave corridor. “Where do you want to go today?” Lovey Dovey asks Moon.
“To the west,” Moon says. “Up. To avoid any unnecessary . . . conflict.” She looks sideways at me.
I bite my lip, thinking it’s me she’s worried about. But since she said up, she’s probably thinking about Golems. The Golems don’t like higher altitudes. But I suppose since they are just machines, they don’t technically like or dislike anything. So that means they don’t work well at high altitudes. I wonder why that is. Perhaps the higher altitudes thin out the artificial blood too much for their hydraulic parts to be effective.
I wonder whether Lovey Dovey and Moon know they’re just machines, considering how few people Luther has told. But they are in and out of Wallace’s shop all the time. Of course they’ve seen Pat hanging from his ceiling.
It’s chilly in the hangar, where we meet up with a group of men and Pax. They’re all dressed like I am, in camouflage parkas. The outside air temperature must have dropped this month. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure what month it is. In Sanctuary, the passage of time was marked by a large talking clock and calendar on the wall. I haven’t seen anything of the like here in Asylum, although I’m sure somebody must be keeping track.
Because it feels natural, and because I don’t know anybody else, I move to stand next to Pax. He nods.
“All right,” says a man with brown curly hair.
“Garrett,” Lovey whispers in my ear.
“We’ve all got clearance to go outside?” He gives Pax and me pointed looks.
“Luther arranged ours,” I say and look at Pax.
“Yes,” he says. “I’ve received clearance.”
Garrett nods and puts a finger to his ear. “Requesting leave for hunting party. Nine members.” He waits a few seconds and then says, “Ten-four. On our way.” He lowers his hand. “Lead the way, Moon.”
Moon steps to the entrance where a security guard holds back the netting for us. She leads us out into the mottled light of early morning. In the weeks since I escaped Sanctuary with Pax and Holly and Trent, the summer heat has cooled considerably. The air is chilly but not too cold, and dry leaves and pine needles crunch beneath my feet. Autumn. I haven’t felt autumn on my skin since I was thirteen years old. After that, I was sequestered away into the protective bubble of Sanctuary behind thick walls and a Looking Glass. No contamination from the outside world was allowed for five years of my life, and every precious moment I’ve spent outside since Pax set me free is like a rediscovery of my soul. I throw my head back and breathe deep, letting my eyes flutter closed.
A few of the men toss amused glances my way, and two of them lean together to whisper something while looking at me. My reaction must seem strange to them. Or maybe not as strange as I think. They do live underground after all. The outdoors must be almost as refreshing to them as it is to me. And to Pax, after months in captivity.
I look at him and find he’s looking at me. He lifts the corner of his mouth in an almost-smile, and then looks away at the trees. We’re coming to the edge of the netting, and thick shafts of sunlight angle down, piercing the tree cover. Pax passes through the light, and his hair shines gold and his eyes look clear as blue glass.
“You should pull up your hood to cover your hair,” Lovey says to him. “It’s so bright it could show through the tree cover.”
I guess I wasn’t the only one staring at him.
Pax does as Lovey says without a word.