We’re back to our one recurring adult character! He’s griping about how he’s got this really great trap but during storms it floods and then there’s a dead body and ugh so inconvenient so he’s got to check it now rather than keep looking for safehouses like he wants to.
one of the tunnel segments has a store of canned food right in the middle. The inside surface of that same cylinder, however, is painted with super-adhesive resin that sticks to clothes and flesh with such tenacity that anyone caught in the pipe might as well be nailed to the concrete.
I’m a bit dubious glue would be last that well in an area like this, but it’s significantly more plausible than the tranquelizer bullets of utter safety.
kid is scrawny and acne-ridden, with crooked teeth yellowed from chewing tobacco or just bad genetics.
I’m honestly disappointed the setting has gone back on the idea that pretty much all drugs are banned. The idea coffee was an illegal drug was actually a bit of interesting worldbuilding, suggesting things have gone extremely Puritan while fitting with the idea that the people in charge may view the kids as just livestock to be kept in prime condition. Now not only are there cigarettes but there’s even chewing tobacco? And not only is it available but it’s so available it’s the right up with genetics for why someone would have yellow teeth?
Nelson gets the kid free, zipties him, tells him that he’s going to the extra unpleasant black market organ dealers, then does his speech about giving the kid a chance.
He nears the road as Nelson gets to “eight” and raises his gun. “Nine.” He has a clear target—the clothing logo on the kid’s back. “Ten!” Then Nelson lowers the gun and doesn’t fire. Instead he watches as the kid races across the road, nearly getting hit by a car—but the car swerves around him. The kid then disappears into the woods.
He’s injected the kid with one of those fancy future microchips that doesn’t require walking up with a machine to read it but which will continuously update him on the kid’s location, all while presumably being even smaller than the one they inject into cats so the kid can’t feel it and realize something’s up.
This is honestly a pretty awesome plan for this universe. The kids he’s letting go isn’t worth much anyway – and that even means there’s better odds other hunters won’t bother with them either and they’ll make it to a safehouse and get funneled wherever kids are funneled, which he’s assuming is where Connorsue hangs out. It doesn’t explicitly say if he’s only letting the crappy ones go or if he’s letting everyone go because he wants to find Connor that bad, but I’m assuming he’s still turning in the ones he’ll get good money for to fund his continued adventures in childmurder.
We then jump to Miracolina, who’s decided to do the bare minimum so they’ll stop bugging her. She says other kids are starting to get rehomed but they’re obviously not going to do that with her.
She’s pretty sure she’ll be able to get out anyway, though.
While she is a tithe, she has not lived the same sheltered life as most other tithes, and although she’s not a girl from the hard streets, she considers herself street-smart and world savvy.
While I think Miracolina is probably overstating her worldliness, it’s also fair to say that the people running the place are used to those definitely sheltered other tithes and generally don’t seem that worldly themselves.
Early on Lev personally warned her of the futility of an escape attempt. “There are sharpshooters with tranq rifles everywhere,” he said, making it sound hopeless. Yet every bit of information helps her, because Lev let it slip that although there’s a fence, it isn’t electrified.
Okay, so when I hit this I assumed it was just Lev trying to make the place sound impossibly secure, but there actually are sharpshooters. I don’t know where they found them or how they could possibly be keeping watch this long without falling asleep from boredom. I guess snipers can do some impressive things, but do they really have access to top-notch professionals and if so wouldn’t their time be better spent on assassinating their way through the current government or something?
She thoroughly explores the mansion, because she’s the anti-Rhine.
paying special attention to the many unused, dilapidated rooms and corridors too far gone to be restored. Most of the windows are boarded over, and all the doors to the outside are locked. But the more forgotten an area is, the less reliable those locks will be—and a padlock hasp is only as good as the wood it’s screwed into.
She finds a likely door. Now to deal with other problems. Every Sunday meal the fancy diningware is pulled out, including silver platters just large enough to fit beneath her shirt.
Then there’s a tornado warning one Sunday. The adults start trying to collect the kids to go into the cellar and Miracolina grabs the platters, shoves them under her clothes, then shoulders her way through the weakened door.
She knows metal is a conductor of electricity, and in the back of her mind she fears that the lightning might seek her out—but she has to believe that won’t happen. She has to believe that God has brought this storm for her, so she can escape—so she can do what she was meant to do. And if she does get struck by lightning, well, that would be a sign from above too, wouldn’t it? So she says a silent prayer.
“Lord, if what I’m doing is wrong, then by all means strike me down. Otherwise set me free.”
While unintentional, the idea that metal plates are really significantly different from your own conductive self or that lightning is a particular threat when you’re only crossing a short area of open ground fits with my general feeling about prayer – she’ll think this divine intervention, I’ll say probability.
We then go to Lev, because of course we fucking do. Miracolina noted he was nowhere around and it turns out he was hanging out stormwatching from his room because storms are awesome. He sees her in a flash of lightning.
Then it’s back to best character, Miracolina! She’s getting sniped by at least two different shooters. She’s hoping that they’re only in the mansion itself and not waiting in the woods ahead. She then charges through the woods, getting exactly as cut up as you’d expect, and finds herself at a fence topped with barbed wire.
More scrapes, more cuts, but she’ll deal with that. She’s sure any injuries will heal before she’s unwound.
See how much better she is than everyone else?
Lev tackles her so she pulls out a platter and brains him. She says she’s willing to kill him to escape.
Then Lev backs off, breathing heavily, and says, “Take me with you.”
It’s not what she expected to hear.
“I can’t be a part of this anymore. I can’t be what they want me to be. I’m no one’s patron saint, and they can rescue tithes fine without me. So I’m getting out too.
Jesus christ Lev, that doesn’t mean you have to inflict your presence on her.
Somehow they make it over the barbed wire with only a little scratching up, even though with the wind it should be difficult to even get up there.
Lev says there’s a road where they might be able to flag down a ride, which really does not sound like a kid who survived on his own as long as he did last book. It doesn’t matter if no one’s officially looking for them – he personally met with a guy kidnapping kids for parts, he knows there’s other dangers.
He does plead with her to keep the place a secret.
“The other kids there aren’t like you. They don’t want to be tithed. Don’t condemn them to something that was never their choice.”
Although it goes against her instincts, right now the line between right and wrong is blurry enough for her to say, “Fine. I won’t tell.”
Except…they don’t want it because brainwashing to think that. Miracolina has been pretty clear that this place was designed on the assumption tithes wouldn’t be okay with it until adults changed their minds.
If the place hadn’t been set up for that and Miracolina could see that all non-her kids were faithless weaklings who jumped at the chance to avoid their death, this would make far more sense – and even then, it’s a stretch given what else she’s said about how you can’t go back on a contract with God. And why would things be blurred now? She just told God to decide if this was right or wrong with a lightning bolt, and she was told YES MY CHILD YOU ARE IN THE RIGHT.
Then on top of that, if she doesn’t rat them out they’ll keep doing it, so it’s not just a question of if she should force kids who’ve been brainwashed to not want to be tithes to be tithes again, but also a matter of all those other happy tithes getting captured and brainwashed away from their godly contract too.
It’s not hard to picture a Miracolina whose faith is focused on her own personal relationship with God and has never much considered other kids, or one who views the rescued kids as making an actual choice, but we got something very different.
He says he’ll let her tithe herself if she really wants, and that he has no plan for where he’s going at all.
and there is such a spark in his eye when he says it, she can tell having no idea is exactly the way he wants it.
And we’re back to the same problem that this is not a world that lacks causes to throw yourself into – it’s just a world where that’s something only bad people want.
“My God. What are you two doing out here in this?” says the driver.
“We were on our bikes—we didn’t know a storm was coming,” Lev says.
“Where are the bikes?”
“We left them way back,” Miracolina chimes in.
“We’ll come get them after the storm,” Lev says. “There’s a tornado watch—we just need to get out of here. Can you help us?”
I can’t help but wonder how much sense the ordinary kid act thing has to it. This would blend in fine with kids in our world…but despite what the news says sometimes, kids in our world are almost never grabbed by strangers and hacked up.
Imagine these guys really were just riding their bikes. Don’t you think the conversation would be,
“Should we go to the road and try to get help?”
“No, let’s just huddle in the woods until the storm passes. It can’t be that bad if there’s people on the road anyway, right?”
Proving my point:
Miracolina can’t help but be a bit troubled by the man’s face as she gets in. There’s something odd about it. Or maybe it’s just his eyes.
We go to Lev, who admits he totally lied and won’t let Miracolina tithe herself. Respect a lady’s choices, Lev.
The man has locked his gaze on Lev, and only now does
Lev see how very mismatched his eyes are. The sight gives him a chill that has nothing to do with the
“I know you don’t remember me, Mr. Calder, because you were unconscious at our last encounter.
But I certainly remember you.”
Lev reaches for the van door, but it’s locked, with no visible way to unlock it.
And no one ever smashes a window.
Look, I realize there are many reasons why that’s often a bad idea, but you have nothing to lose.
The guy pulls out his gun, continues to chat with them for a bit, and then shoots them both while they apparently just sit and let him. Miracolina, I forgive this of you because you’re just a kid in over your head, it’s okay to freeze up. But Lev, god, what are you even here for? And you sure didn’t freeze up when dealing with the clapper girl earlier!
We then go to Nelson again.
In a flash of lightning, he sees a glimpse of the tornado. It tears out trees from the side of the road not a hundred yards ahead of him. It tears up the road itself—chunks of asphalt flying into the sky. Something—a piece of road or a tree limb—puts a dent in the roof like the angry stomp of a giant. A side window shatters, and the van is dragged sideways from the shoulder and into the middle of the road.
And somehow the force to rip up the road isn’t enough to so much as tip the van and they make it through fine and Nelson, like Miracolina, decides that he can take this as a sign of God giving him thumbs up for what he’s doing and that he’ll definitely get Connor.