Well, we’re back to this again. Which means we’re also back to fucking Connor.
“Chatter,” Hayden tells Connor. “All kinds of chatter.”
Hayden paces the tight space in Connor ’s jet, hitting his head on the ceiling more than once.
Connor has rarely seen Hayden this agitated. Until now, he always managed to keep the world at smirking distance.
“Is it just on the Tucson police bands, or the juvey bands too?”
“Everywhere,” Hayden tells him. “Radio, e-mails, every communication we can intercept. The analysis programs have us shooting to red alert.”
Okay, so what’s going on here is they JUST FUCKING REALIZED that Connor2 has been burning down houses while screaming it’s revenge for unwinding plz kill us in retribution for two solid weeks now, and only by accident on the way to noticing that everything’s gone crazy suddenly. This happened only because their analysis programs which run through everything noticed that for them, because they’re that unspeakably incompetent. And yet, we’re supposed to believe they caught Risa’s broadcasts right at the start.
Meanwhile, Connor2 is somehow so awesome despite the complete disaster that was his first try that not one person has breathed a word about that or any other “rescue” they made. Because, ultimately, other people just don’t exist! They aren’t a factor. They’re just masses to be used by one of the actual people as tools. So Connor Prime is thinking this is a false flag thing being done as an excuse.
Connor Prime asks for Trace, also not realizing that if this started two weeks ago and Trace both knew and was on your side, you wouldn’t be hearing about it two weeks in, and is told he’s gone.
So Trace finally decided which side he’s on
Connor, you may be really fucking stupid but you are not so fucking stupid you can’t understand two weeks. EITHER he didn’t know and this is a total coincidence, OR he decided a minimum of thirteen days ago.
He goes on to say that also, Trace was required for the escape plan of flying out on a jet.
In a better written book this could work. If we didn’t have everything dragging out like this, it’d be understandable that Connor could make the escape plan that hinges on someone he doesn’t trust and not get around to updating or having contingencies. We’re told Connor is horribly busy but all we see is stuff like being the only people in America to not know about houses being burned down over unwinding until two weeks later, which makes it sound like everyone’s just incompetently lazing around.
If Connor had only found out about Trace a few days ago, if this was the morning after Connor2’s first stupid fire, and if lots more stuff was also going on in those days, then yeah, realizing your escape plan relies on one person of unknown loyalties could be missed.
Because all moves at the speed of plot, despite, cannot say this enough, two fucking weeks, now that Connor’s ~*~*~tech expert~*~*~ has managed to divine the biggest news story in his lifetime is going on, he knew to check that all the burnt houses had storks slated to be unwound that they knew of from their own lists and so it’s obviously Connor2. Somehow he missed the part where Connor2 literally shouted this at an entire terrified neighborhood which was no doubt on every TV show and newspaper and radio in the country and yet is smart enough to immediately work it out from actual detective reasoning.
Connor Prime then stomps over to see his doppelganger and shout a bunch of vague shit to really bury the whole “you’ve gotten everyone killed” deep in the conversation and good god you can see how, as bad as his doppelganger may be at this, he’s still so much better at handling crowds than Connor Prime.
Meanwhile, Connor2 is all yeah whatevs we’ll fight off the police force of an entire country because we have a few guns, and this is not stupider than everything else, book! You can’t tell me to single out his stupidity as villainous when these other dumbasses didn’t even know he was burning down houses!
(Also, Connor2 has a new kid they managed to not accidentally kill, which somehow was also managing to stay a secret because there are only rumors that one time last book when the author wanted a crazy mob for drama.)
Connor manages to get to be the smart one for a second by pointing out there is no way they can fight people off. Connor2 starts to realize this is true…
“You’re just a coward,” shouts Bam, glowering at him just as she did the day Connor fired her.
“Yeah, yeah, a coward,” the others echo.
But a dumb girl is dumb and then a dumb crowd is dumb, because somehow these kids feel no fear and believe they’re all invincible and nothing will go wrong, despite the fact they attacked at least three houses and have only one kid to show for it strongly implying that the second attempt was also an accidental murder fuckup.
Because adopted kids are fucking evil, okay? It’s not the whole camp who was taken in by this guy. Only the storked kids are crazy and hypocritical and stupid, and Connor still has the support of the rest of the camp, so the group is peppered with tranquilizer darts by the guys waiting just outdoors – the noble and righteous who are not scum abandoned on doorsteps and who also have not had any references to being of mixed unidentifiable blood.
Connor has been foolish enough to trust him, and to believe that Starkey’s ambition was healthy, not blind.
“This guy is sucking up to me while pretending to have no ambition, and uses every scrap of power he gets to try to build a base of kids loyal only to him to keep growing that power…amazingly healthy ambition there, I should promote him and then give him no oversight!”
Connor does, however, say to not rough him up, so we aren’t getting heroic torture! Let’s all remember that in that respect, this book has not failed us.
He also wants his failed replacement to get put somewhere else because he can’t put Starkey in the same holding pen as his co-conspirators. It would just lead to more plotting. since I guess he’s also too noble to realize he could just have someone listening in? Also, the nice thing about locking people up is it doesn’t matter if they’re still plotting against you or not.
Connor then knows it’s time to explain what happened to everybody who wasn’t right in the room.
Connor begins damage control.
And for some reason he’s whining about being handed the PR slam-dunk of “the guy undermining me killed people and may have doomed us all”.
He tunes in to the rumbles of conversation on the perimeter. Some kids are just wondering what the hell happened, but there are other voices. Disapproving voices. The Stork Club.
And just in case you weren’t certain, the book reminds you that only the evil adopted kids evilly support the evil one. No disapproval whatsoever from anybody else.
Connor proceeds to try to do a grand let’s all come together thing, still without mentioning any justification for why he just rounded up a bunch of kids despite his justification being the best possible thing that could’ve happened to him. Luckily, he’s a sue so this totally works anyway.
There’s just the one lone voice asking what’ll happen to Connor2, despite again the crowd not even knowing what the fuck that was about and generally one puts “find out why someone was just imprisoned” over “find out what happens to them next”. But anyway Connor’s all HE’S ONE OF US NO UNWINDING which doesn’t even really address the point – was anyone thinking his punishment for the guy would be unwinding of all things? He could be planning a hanging and this would still be a completely true statement.
Because the moral of the whole Connor2 thing is obviously that you should talk to as few people as possible and concentrate power, Connor goes back to his tiny circle of friends and tells them his new plan – they arm fifty kids, have them engage and tell the other six-fifty to run for it in the opposite direction. As plans go, pretty good.
But the only reason to be telling your friends this privately is if you’re planning to not explain to the other forty kids that they’re bait. Again to his credit, this doesn’t seem to be Connor’s plan – but that means he’s being sneaky about this for no reason whatsoever, right after a lack of transparency bit him in the ass and caused this crisis.
“Any of you who aren’t up for it, I won’t hold it against you if you leave,” Connor says, but everyone knows that’s like the minister asking if anyone objects to the wedding.
“All right, good,” he says when no one raises a hand. “Each of you put together a team of your most trusted friends who are willing to stand against the Juvies, then let the others know to start running when the alarm sounds, and not to stop running until they’re either caught or turn seventeen.”
WHY? Why not just tell the kids what’s up and let people pick? Why is “trusted friends” the most important criteria and not “people who volunteer for this without huge pressure”? The fact you trust someone in general has little bearing on if they’re the sort of person who’ll stay to the end or break in panic and run for it.
Then we go to Trace, who of course didn’t betray them and is racing back (cellphones not existing again, his employers couldn’t contact him earlier without him being there in person and he can’t contact Connor now without again being there in person).
What the suits from Proactive Citizenry wanted to know was why Trace hadn’t told them about these attacks ahead of time. After all, that was his entire purpose there—to let them know everything before it happened. They refused to believe that he had been just as blindsided by it as they were.
What EVERYONE needs to be asking is why the fuck no one reacted after the first attack and waited for it to become multiples to notice it.
Maybe this is some sort of editing snafu? Maybe the Connor2 POV got backfilled in and the outline was “after three houses that all had a kid about to be unwound burn, people put the pieces together” and then no one realized that when that became “Connor2 screams about how this is about unwinding, blame the AWOL kids with ties to a broad organization against unwinding for this, everyone in the surrounding houses pay attention while I am explicitly talking to you yes thank you for coming out to see me for this important message I was worried that the family I’m letting go might be too shellshocked to be clear on how this is all the escaped unwind kids doing it” on the very first attack it no longer made any sense for there to be a delayed response.
Anyway, the end of the book is near. Remember how last time, there was a sudden clusterfuck of confusion at the Graveyard? That’s about to happen again. When Trace gets there, he gives new orders to the guards at the gates to shoot anyone else who approaches until they’re out of ammunition and gives them two boxes of the deadliest military ammunition made. Shells that could take the head off an elephant. to do it with.
Because clearly Trace’s military background taught him the best response to an incoming attack is mad panic.
“Because the Juvies are right behind me.”
Except they’re not, of course, and instead Lev and Miracolina are walking up. But who fucking cares about that bit of narrative contrivance! Trace doesn’t know when the attack is coming, and furthermore even when it does they have limited supplies but good defense, so not only is nothing lost by only shooting once you confirm it actually is the cops coming to kill you all, but you need to make every bullet count!
This isn’t some unforeseeable accident. No matter what happens after this point Trace’s plan is the worst way to handle it. If it was kids, if it was your parent group coming with reinforcements or an escape route, if it was the cops, if it was a random coyote – in all of those cases, BLOW ALL YOUR AMMUNITION AS SOON AS A SPECK MOVES GO GO GO is fucking stupid!
But it’s hardly the only incredibly stupid thing happening. Lev, would you like to explain how you’re also fucking stupid?
The fence seems to go on forever. Every few minutes a car zooms past on its way to or away from Tucson. Lev knows that drivers must see them and wonder what two kids are doing way out here, but he doesn’t care. He’s too close to waste time hiding from headlights now.
He’s too close to GETTING TO SAFETY to concern himself that HE IS COMPROMISING THAT SAFETY? Really? Drivers wondering about kids on their own and what they’re doing out here is no threat to Lev – he’s quite un-unwindable, remember? It’s only a threat to everybody else.
Anyway they find the gate and get fired at.
Now, to Connor2!
He keeps his wits about him as they bring him to Connor ’s jet, suppressing his fury at the humiliation of being collared in front of the entire Graveyard. The arrogance of Connor! Allowing him to “preserve his dignity” was anything but dignified. Starkey would rather have fought as they dragged him through the dirt. That would be dignified—but to treat him with such limp pity? It was the ultimate insult.
I’m not sure how Connor saying not to rough him up if he wasn’t fighting somehow prevented him from fighting and needing to be dragged, but evidently it did.
Connor2 continues to be a pretty okay character because while there’s nonsense, there’s also him being proactive. He’s going to break his hand so he can get out of the cuffs. I’m not sure why he never learned to just dislocate or break his thumb and has to break all his fingers and also his wrist to accomplish this, but whatever, I respect both his dedication and willingness to keep the plot moving.
We dip into his guard’s view for a second. It’s a kid named Noah and there’s some other kid, named “other kid”. They are standing around outside the jet Connor2 is locked in, because the best guarding is done when you have no idea what the prisoner is doing and also you don’t care why suddenly that prisoner is screaming in pain. Trace shows up to ask where Connor is, which the book implies is the spanner in the works:
Only once he’s gone does Noah hear a banging sound from inside Connor ’s jet—but it’s not the kind of sound he’d expect Starkey to make. The emergency exit above the wing begins to open.
But let’s face it, the odds are they’d have ignored this for too long anyway. Connor2 continues to amaze by being smart enough to open the far exit first, then distract them by opening the closer one.
Noah is less worried about Starkey than he is about having to tell Connor he screwed up his first real assignment.
As Noah is not Connor, he is dumb and thinks dumb things, even though in any sane universe this is true – in any sane universe, Connor explained what the kid did and everyone would hate him, so he wouldn’t be able to immediately rejoin his power base and cause trouble.
We jump to Connor2 who is going to take so much advantage of this. He finds one of the non-inner-circle members of his power base who weren’t rounded up and tells them they’ll storm the jet, since he knows Trace is there to fly it but Connor doesn’t. How he’s sure Trace will go to the jet before talking to Connor is unclear, but hey, it’s obviously Connor’s time to do stupid shit to make the plot more dramatic, so it’s not an unreasonable guess.
Then Starkey spots Ashley racing from the arsenal with a nasty-looking machine gun, and he intercepts her. Her eyes go wide when she sees him.
“What the hell are you doing out? Does Connor know?”
“He will if you don’t keep your voice down!”
Ashley moves closer to him. “Forget it, Starkey. Why don’t you just make a run for it? Connor won’t care, as long as you’re out of his way when the Juvies come.”
“Are you a stork, Ashley, or are you one of Connor ’s lackeys after all?”
When it’s put that way, there’s really only one response that Starkey’s key “sleeper agent” could give.
“What do you want me to do?”
So just to be clear: adopted children are terrible, never trust the little bastards, even those who seem like they’re on your side are secretly out for their own destructive crazy agenda, if they’re crying because you’re discriminating against them it’s probably just fake to manipulate them.
Thank GOD this book has taken this bold stance. For too long adopted children haven’t been completely shit on by the media.
Anyway, Ashley now intercepts Trace, as Connor2 knew he’d be able to cause through his psychic visions of the future, to say that Connor knows he’s there and orders him to stop trying to find Connor but head straight for the escape jet.
In conclusion, remember: adopted children are basically goblins that look and act human to trick you. You’re not “being a discriminatory piece of shit”, you’re just being proactive about preventing their inevitable betrayal based on actual fact and not some sort of prejudice throughout society that should be fought rather than further enabled.