I woke up fast. Almost instantly. My eyes rolling open with a click. It took a few seconds for my brain to catch up and make sense of my surroundings.
We were still on the train. The train was still moving fast, roaring like a wild and untamable beast beneath us. It was bright inside the cabin now. Daytime.
My eyes sought out the soldier, and once I could blink away the sleep, I saw him clearly for the first time. He was on the bench opposite, close to the door, as though guarding it. He wouldn’t be giving me another chance to try to escape. He surveyed me indirectly but still held the gun with perfect aim, not that I was worried about that. If he’d wanted to kill me, he would have done it by now. Hell, he could have left me for dead last night where he’d found me, but for some reason he hadn’t.
Perhaps it was my shocking white skin and hair that had intrigued him, although I highly doubted it. More likely, it was the simple fact that I was a woman, one of the few left in a dying world, and the small chance that I could be a Daughter.
It was the only possible explanation for why he’d taken me. Normally, Daughters were carefully collected and hoarded by the government, like precious objects.
But there was still the chance of outlaws living in hiding, like my mother. Maybe that’s what he thought I was. Maybe I could even convince him of it, which would be sure to secure my safety. For a little while, at least.
Anyway, there was no way of knowing for sure what his intentions were, since his expression revealed nothing, and he wasn’t likely to start talking to me any time soon. His face was passively smooth and chiseled, almost like he’d carved the humanity out of it with a sharp tool, and everything about him was meticulously kept, from his neat hair to his starched uniform, the thick brown fabric belted snugly over a trim chest. He even held himself still with such precision that it was difficult to tell if he was breathing, and it was impressive in an entirely new and frightening way.
In all my nineteen years of life, I was used to dealing with all manner of people. Savages—madmen—my heartless mother. Anything but this. I wasn’t used to soldiers that exercised control in every little thing they did. The world around him seemed reduced to chaos in comparison.
The only proof of weakness was the dried blood on the seat, proof that he’d been injured, although I couldn’t tell where. All I knew for sure was that I’d heard the gun go off last night.
“What happened?” I croaked, my mouth dry.
He stiffened but didn’t answer, and I stared at him hard, as though daring him to look at me. But his discipline was unwavering. This was a man who followed the law without fault. Although he’d already made it abundantly clear that he would use any force necessary to keep me here, even if it meant breaking those very same laws.
I made sure to remind myself of that. His gods might have made him fear me, but that didn’t make him weak.
The next chance I’d get to shoot him, I wouldn’t waste it.