Stung by Bethany Wiggins

Page 30

  “Ew. You guys are gross,” Arrin says. “Can we go already? Before she accidentally eats him?”

  Bowen sighs into my mouth and I lean away, combing the hair off his forehead, studying his face for a brief moment. With a smile plastered to my face, I stand and help Bowen to his feet. He doesn’t wobble, even a little, and my mouth falls open. He smiles again. “Guess the IV’s working its magic,” he says. “But I’m still weak. And still losing a bit of blood. ”

  I peer at his bare, blood-covered stomach and wince. I am the one who did that to him.

  The match flickers and goes out again. Tommy lights a third.

  “Didn’t you pack a flashlight?” I ask.

  “You’re so stupid!” Arrin grumbles.

  “Of course I packed a flashlight,” Tommy says. “But there’s no way we’re getting out of here that easy. Not with you along, Fiona Tarsis. The militia will scan the ground for any type of energy current, except fire. And I didn’t pack a candle. ” Tommy turns to Arrin. “So, Fec, where are we going?”

  Arrin shrugs, peering at him through stringy bangs. “You tell me. And I’m assuming I’ll be paid? I’m not helping you for nothing. ”

  “Will a can of peaches be payment enough?” Bowen asks.

  “Double it and you’ve got a deal. ”

  “Done,” Bowen says. “Well, then, where to?” Arrin asks.

  I look at Bowen, hope burning in my chest. “Can we still run?” I whisper. “To Wyoming?”

  He shakes his head. “Too weak. I’ll never make it. And you’ll never make it on your own. ”

  Eyes pleading, I look at Tommy. He smirks and shakes his head. “I ain’t running with you. And besides, even if you did run, even if Bowen was all right, there’s no way you’d get far. Not with the manpower they’ve got on your tail. ”

  “You can live in the tunnels,” Arrin says, a sly gleam in her eyes.

  “No!” Bowen and I say at the same time.

  “Suit yourself. But where to? I can get you to the outskirts of the city or inside the wall, or if you want—”

  “What?” Bowen says, interrupting her. “You can get us inside the wall?”

  She spins around and grins at him, nodding. The match flickers out, and Tommy lights another.

  “I don’t believe it,” Bowen says, his words a challenge.

  Arrin shrugs. “Believe it or not. Doesn’t change the fact that I know a way in. I know a lot more than just that. Like why the raiders always keep a beast in their camp. And why the lab wants her so bad. ” She nods her greasy head at me.

  “Why?” Bowen asks, his eyes darting between Arrin and me.

  “Because she’s the first child to wake from a coma. And when she woke, she wasn’t crazy anymore,” Arrin whispers, as if it’s the biggest secret in the world.

  Chills dance down my spine.

  “How do you know?” Tommy asks.

  Arrin doesn’t answer. Bowen does. “The Fec’s clothes. They’re standard lab uniforms. Patient uniforms. They used to be Fiona’s. And I’ve never heard of a Ten who didn’t turn. Except for Fiona. And the bruises in the creases of her elbows. They’re from needles. She’s from the lab. ”

  Arrin nods. Tommy stares at me, eyes shining with amazement.

  “Since you’ve got everything figured out, how did she get on the wrong side of the wall?” Arrin challenges.

  “I haven’t figured that out yet. Have you?”

  Arrin shakes her head. “But I know why they want her so bad. They need her back so they can figure out how to cure the others. But …”

  “What?” I take a step toward Arrin. “But what?”

  “But …” She looks right into my eyes. “They’re going to have to kill you to get the answers. ”

  The match goes out and I’m blind. A cool, damp hand finds mine and folds around it. “I won’t let the lab kill you. ” Bowen’s breath is warm against my ear. His lips press against my temple. “Arris, take us inside the wall. ”

  His words stun me. “Wait. Inside the wall? You are taking me to the lab?”

  His fingers tighten on mine. “Never, Fiona. I’ll never take you to the lab. But what if I’m right about your sister being alive and living inside the wall? Do you think she’d hide us?”

  A wave of relief and hope shudder through me. My sister. Lis. “Yes. ”

  “Then that’s settled. Take us inside the wall, Arris,” Bowen says, his voice sounding stronger every time he talks.

  “Are you sure we can trust him?” Tommy asks.

  “Do we have a choice?” Bowen answers.

  Another hand finds my empty hand. A small, hot hand, with jagged nails and grit-covered skin. “Tommy,” Arrin whispers. “Hold Bowen’s hand so we’re all connected. ”

  Tommy splashes through the water. “Got it,” he says, his deep voice echoing against cement. “You want me to light another match, Fec?”

  “Nope. Darkness is my friend. ”

  “Thank you, Arrin,” I whisper, squeezing her scrawny hand.

  “For what?” she says, her voice suspicious.

  “Helping me. ”

  She laughs, and another chill races down my spine.

  Chapter 30

  The water changes from stagnant to rancid and clings to my ankles like mud instead of splashing around them. Bowen’s breathing has grown labored, and his palm has turned icy cold in mine. His hand begins to drag against mine, making me pull Arrin to a slower pace.

  “Let’s take a break,” I say after an hour or so.

  Arrin’s hold tightens on my hand. “No. We’re almost there. ”

  I dig my feet into sludge and refuse to take another step. Bowen bumps into my back and drops my hand, clutching at my shoulder to keep from falling.

  “Arrin, we need a break,” I say, tearing my hand from her grasp.

  “Whatever. But just shut up,” she growls. “The tunnels are never safe. ”

  Through the darkness and sludge, I guide Bowen to the damp tunnel wall. He leans against it, throwing one arm around me for support.

  “Tommy, is there anything else we can give Bowen to help him?” I ask. I switch my pack around so it is in front of me but still looped to my shoulders and rummage around inside it for food and water. I open a water bottle and feel for Bowen’s hand. He takes the bottle and drinks.

  “We could do another IV,” Tommy says, “but I worry about secondary infections. It’s so dirty down here, he might die of blood poisoning if we puncture his skin. I have a vitamin tablet and an energy tablet. They might help. ”

  “No!” Arrin blurts. “We’re almost there!”

  “How much longer,” Bowen asks. His voice sounds as cold and weak as the sun in winter.

  “Ten minutes tops,” Arrin says, her voice nearly a purr. “I know you’ll make it. Just … let’s go. ”

  I take the water bottle from Bowen and put it into the pack, then secure it on my back again. “I’m not leaving until Bowen eats a vitamin and an energy tablet,” I say.

  Arrin groans. Tommy sloshes to Bowen’s side. “Open up, man. Now chew. ”

  I hear the tablets crunch in Bowen’s mouth. The sound eases a bit of the tension wound tight in my belly. “Now we can go,” I say. But I don’t want to go on. Something doesn’t feel right.

  We all grasp hands again and continue through the slop. Holding Bowen’s hand is like holding an ice cube. Arrin’s is like fire. And every step we take, dread coils more tightly in my belly.

  We haven’t been walking five minutes when the stuff squelching around my feet becomes thin liquid again, the stench less powerful.

  “See? I told you we were almost there! Almost inside the wall,” Arrin says, not keeping her giddy voice down.

  “When you said you knew a way into the wall through the tunnels, you also meant you know a way up to the top, right?” Tommy asks, voice suspicious. Maybe he can feel the same thi
ng I’m feeling—unease.

  “Duh. Of course there’s a way to the top. You just have to know where to go,” Arrin answers.

  We take three more steps through the pitch-blackness, when I jerk to a stop. Bowen walks into me again, and Arrin’s hand slips out of mine. My heart is pounding, and despite the fact that the tunnels are already midnight black, I close my eyes, straining to hear.

  “What now?” Tommy grumbles.

  “I heard something ahead,” I whisper. I reach forward for Arrin, but she’s not within arm’s reach. “Arrin?” She doesn’t reply. We are stuck in darkness, trapped in silence. I hear a rustle from behind, and then a match flickers. Golden light hovers around Tommy’s hand. And reflects against a dozen pairs of eyes.

  One pair of eyes isn’t as tall as the others. The short pair steps forward—Arrin, her mouth a hard line—and points at me. “That’s Fiona Tarsis. The Ten. ”

  “Oh no,” Bowen whispers. His hand begins trembling in mine.

  Tommy curses, and I know without looking that he’s got his rifle on his shoulder, aiming at the eyes.

  “Put your weapon down, militia man. ” The voice comes from the shadows. “We’ve got you surrounded. If you hand over the Ten, we’ll let you go. If you try to fight, we’ll kill you before we take her. So we win no matter what. You just have to decide how badly you want to lose. ”

  I look around and gasp. There are people behind us, in front of us, on either side of us, even hanging in the pipes overhead. And most of them hold something that shines just like their eyes—weapons. Tommy grunts and tosses his gun to the side of the tunnel, out of the water.

  “You too, Ten. Disarm. We are armed and we are many,” the voice says.

  I take the small gun from my waistband and slip the rifle off the backpack, and toss them to the side of the tunnel by Tommy’s gun.
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