"I don't know anything about the rebels." My tone sounded dry and uninterested, a product of over an hour of answering the same questions over and over.
"Eve, I have dealt with you with patience so far, but it is growing thin now. I expect your loyalty. I expect it in exchange for the kindness I have shown you. I brought you into my family. I trusted you."
Would I have given him the answers if I'd known them? Perhaps. I didn't feel any loyalty to him now.
"How will they attempt to free your brother?"
"I don't know."
"You are forcing me to use measures I hate to employ, Eve."
"I'm sorry, sir," I said automatically.
His voice changed. "Bring her."
The two bodyguards that'd stood silently at the door of Mr. Isoli's office moved forward, each taking an arm to escort me from the room. Their rough hands dug into my arms. I shuffled my feet to follow, feeling numb. The white-faced clock on the wall as glared at me as we walked out. Ten p.m. Micah would be executed in two hours.
They led me down the hall. I couldn't hear Mr. Isoli's footsteps behind us, but I knew he was there. We stopped at a gray door. One of the bulky bodyguards held my arms pinned to my sides while the other slid a card through the reader next to the door. He pulled it open, then waited for me and the other guard and Mr. Isoli to walk through before coming in behind. The door snapped shut behind us, a metallic click echoing through the bare stairwell we entered.
The bodyguard pushed me forward, holding me up by the arms as we descended. My feet slid on the cold cement. I only stayed upright because of the guard.
The stairs weren't long. They ended after about a dozen steps. A hallway stretched out in front of us, one bulb about midway lighting the entire hallway. The other guard stepped around me and my captor, opening the first door on our right. Water from a small tub of water threw strange shapes onto the ceilings and walls of the gray room. I gulped, my knees buckling.
He forced me into the wooden chair facing the tub.
"I'm surprised the rebels have waited so long, Eve. Perhaps they believed Micah would be exonerated." Mr. Isoli laughed coldly. "I've underestimated them in the past, but I won't do so now. I'd like to believe they'll let Micah die for them rather than risk a foolhardy attempt to rescue him from the National Prison." He leaned over, putting his face next to mine. "But they won't. So here is your chance to tell me how they plan to rescue him."
"I don't know," I whispered. I watched the small ripples in the water lapping softly, noiselessly against the sides of the stone tub.
The guard standing behind me pushed my face down close to the water. It smelled new and clean, probably filled especially for me.
"You want me to believe they didn't even tell his own sister how they planned to rescue him?"
"I'm not a rebel!" I protested.
The guard shoved my face into the water. I tried to stay calm, but my lungs began to burn. I pushed up. The guard thrust my face in further. I struggled against him. Just when I believed my lungs would burst, the guard yanked me back by my hair.
Water ran in streams down my face, mingling with terrified tears.
"You must know, Eve. You spent the better part of three days trying to convince me and everyone in my household to release him."
"He's my brother," I wailed.
"What is their plan," he demanded.
I shook my head. Before I could even utter anything, my face plunged into the water. Again I tried to hold still. This time the guard seemed to hold me down longer. Black ringed my vision. I wondered if I'd pass out before I sucked the water into my lungs. I realized with surprise I was trying to scream.
The grip on the back of my neck relaxed. I'd struggled so violently I rolled off the chair when the guard no longer held me. I lay gasping on the floor, water puddling around me. The murmuring voices of Mr. Isoli and his guards rolled over me. One word pierced the watery fog.
The buzz of a paralyzer gun shot through the damp air. I waited for the painful pulse. Instead a body crumpled in front of me. Then one behind me.
I cranked my neck toward the door, trying to make out the face of the shadow in the doorway. Had Micah risked everything to come back to the Capitol to save me?
"You helped him escape?" The voice--Mr. Isoli's?--came from a figure facing my rescuer, motionless, and staring down the barrel of a paralyzer gun. "How could you throw the life I built for you away?" he asked coldly.
"I think you know."
My heart skittered when I recognized Darion's voice. The harsh buzz shattered the momentary silence. Mr. Isoli fell.
In an instant Darion crossed the room, scooping his arms under my shoulders. "Can you stand?" He lifted me up. I leaned weakly into his chest.
"Micah?" I asked, my voice rough and raw.
"He's safe, Eve. Let's get out of here."
He drug me out of the room and up the short flight of stairs. When my feet met the silky carpet, I wanted to sink into it and sleep.
"Keep going, Eve."
I obeyed Darion, not noticing the path we took inside the East Wing.
"Stop. Stop right there!"
Darion ignored the guard and shuffled me faster. "Run, Eve. Come on. I need your help."
I pushed myself forward, clinging to Darion. Micah's safe. Micah’s safe. I chanted the mantra in my head to the rhythm of my feet stepping one in front of the next. I ignored the frequent buzzing sounds as Darion shot behind us. I mindlessly followed, letting him jerk me right and left. Bolts of electricity shaved so close the hairs on my arm stood up.
We reached a door. Darion threw it open. I took the cement stairs two at a time. Yells echoed all around me. Did I imagine that some came from ahead of us?
Darion pulled me to a stop. I looked up. At least half a dozen guards blocked the side security exit to the Capitol. Darion thrust something into my hands. I glared down at the shiny, black plastic. My finger automatically found the trigger. I recoiled.
Darion pushed it closer to my body. “Shoot, Eve.”