‘Almost there, almost there.’ Jamia thought, as they neared an exit to the city.
Livi continued her relaxed pose as they passed the checkpoint to enter the city and were free. Of course, they maintained their slow, normal pace until they were sure the guards couldn’t see them.
“How did they not recognize you?” Jamia asked.
“The glasses. When they just see the hair, they assume I’m a normal Gray. I’m sure if they had seen my whole face they would have arrested or killed me.” Livi replied, “But, we’re not focusing on that.”
“Where are we going?” Jamia asked, assuming Livi would tell her now that they were outside the city.
“An old farm. It used to belong to a family of Reds, but they were taken when some cheese from their farm gave someone food poisoning. The only person living there is a member of the family that my family helped hide. So he owes me one.” Livi replied.
Jamia didn’t reply; she would have to talk to this guy personally before she trusted him.
“How far?” Jamia asked.
“About another day’s walk. We should be there by tomorrow afternoon.” Livi said.
“Great.” Jamia mumbled. They’d have to sleep in the open, no walls protecting them; one would have to stay up and keep watch.
‘Why am I thinking of us as a team? We’re not a team!’ Jamia thought, scolding herself, ‘A Gray and a Red cannot be a team! She’s helping me to get rid of her guilt, and I just need somewhere to stay that’s at least somewhat safe. I’m not her friend.’
‘Then why aren’t you holding your knife to her back and forcing her to take you somewhere?’ A little voice in the back of her head asked.
‘Because... Because she offered to help me, and I don’t want to kill her.’
‘Why not? She’s a Gray. They killed your parents. They have Julian. Why don’t you want to kill her?’
‘Because... Because... Because I don’t.’ Jamia couldn’t come up with a reason. It was true, Livi was a Gray. The Grays had killed her parents. The Grays did have Julian, or worse, so why didn’t she want to kill Livi?
“I know you probably hate me. You’re probably mad at me for blowing off the fact I don’t have a family, and that I’ll be killed if they catch me, but I didn’t mean to say that it doesn’t matter to me that they’re dead, or that your parents are dead. It’s just that, you have a brother who apparently needs you, and I don’t have anyone who needs me.” Livi smiled kindly instead of the smug smile she had had most of the time.
“Didn’t your parents save you? Or at least try? Did they push you out the back door? Did they tell you they loved you before they sent you away?” Jamia asked, looking at the ground.
“Yeah. My dad, he picked me up while I was in bed. He shook me until I was fully awake and told me to run. He told me to run until I couldn’t even see the house anymore. So that’s exactly what I did. I ran until I was at least two miles from the house,” Livi replaced the nice smile with her usual smug one, “And those lazy-ass Grays couldn’t keep up!” She said, trying not to shout it incase any of the ‘lazy-ass Grays’ were nearby.
“So, don’t you want to make their sacrifices worth it? Don’t you want to keep going?” Jamia asked.
“Of course I do. But no one would be sad if I died. So it wouldn’t be that great a loss.” Livi replied.
“Maybe someone would...” Jamia started “Like this guy who you say owes you, don’t you think he would care?”
“I guess... but most likely he’d just be like ‘that’s too bad’ then forget I ever existed. ‘A person doesn’t die when they are killed, they die when they are forgotten.’” Livi quoted the last sentence, as if she expected Jamia to understand what she was talking about.
“Where’s that ‘wisdom’ from?” Jamia asked, sounding bored.
“A book called The Elementals. Main character, Suzu, says that to her best friend, Rika as Rika is dying. She’s trying to comfort her friend by telling her she isn’t going to be gone forever.” Livi explained.
“Sounds like Suzu really wanted her friend to feel good about dying.” Jamia replied.
“Whatever, I think it’s a nice idea.” Livi replied, yawning.
Julian watched the Gray woman enter the room again. This time carrying a knife in her right hand and a pistol in her left.
“Okay. Now, if you don’t listen to me this time, I might just lose it. And my hands just might slip.” She smiled maliciously, lifting the gun and pointing it at Julian’s head.
“I told you, I don’t know where she is. Why won’t you listen to me?”
“Because you’re lying. I know you’re lying. You filthy Blaze. You think you’re so great. You think you’re better than us because you’re not human like the rest of us.” She replied, sounding disgusted and angry.
“I don’t know where she is.” Julian said.
The Gray woman quickly moved the gun to point at Julian’s leg and pulled the trigger. Julian bit his lip to prevent himself from screaming in pain.
“Where is the damn Blaze!” She demanded, shooting his other leg.
Julian could taste blood in his mouth from his teeth clamping down on his lip. He could also feel tears falling off his face from the pain in his legs.
“Oh, you’re crying. I’m sorry. Do you want a bottle baby? Do you want your Mommy? Well, I’m sorry, your Mommy’s dead. Your Daddy’s dead too you know. And Big Sister abandoned baby. Poor poor baby.” She mocked.
“Why do you hate me?” Julian asked.
“What?” She asked.
“Why do you hate me?” Julian repeated.
“Because you’re inhuman. Because your people are killers. Because you’re violent and if we let you free you’ll kill anyone you come into contact with.” She yelled.
“I’ve never hurt anyone.” Julian replied.
“You’re terrible at lying Blaze.” She said, now pointing the gun at his right arm.
“Where is the other Blaze?” She demanded.
“I don’t know.” Julian said.
“Stop f*cking lying!” She yelled, pulling the trigger again. Julian let out a cry of pain before clamping back down on his lip.
“I’m not lying!” Julian shouted back.
“You think you can talk back to me? You think you deserve the luxury of talking back to me?” She asked, aiming the gun at his left arm now.
“Please, listen. I don’t know where she is. We didn’t plan past meeting up in the woods.” Julian pleaded, hanging his head to hide the tears of pain.
She pulled the trigger again.
“I’m in charge here. I know you’re lying to me Blaze. So, everytime you do, you get hurt.” She said, a deadly serious look on her face.
Julian could feel blood running down his chin from his lip. The taste was tangy and metallic, but it was better than screaming for help in a place where no one would give it.
The Gray woman threw her gun to the side, it hit the wall and fell to the ground. She lifted the knife, and a Gray man walked over to her and took the knife from her hand. He walked up to Julian and pressed the blade against Julian’s left upper arm, right near where he had been shot.
“Where is she?” The Gray woman asked. Sounding like she might actually lose it this time.
“I don’t know.” Julian replied.
She nodded to the Gray man and he dragged the knife down Julian’s arm, causing even more blood to spill from the wound.
“Grayson! don’t kill him!” A male voice called from outside the door.
“Yes Sir!” She replied, glaring at Julian before she and the man standing by Julian stepped out before the metal bands over Julian’s hand opened and he fell to his feet, resulting in him lying on the ground, trying not to move for fear of causing himself more pain than he was already experiencing.
All Julian could hear was a ringing in his ears. He tried to stay awake, watching the blood fall out of his wounds, and waiting for Stephanie to come save him from dying a painful and slow death on the floor of the cell, before he could even see his sister again. Tell his sister he loved her and that he was sorry she always had to take care of him. That he never woke up and saw the world for what it was. A terrible place that wanted to beat them until they gave up and died.
But Julian wouldn't give up. He refused to give the Gray woman what she wanted. It was a full minute before Stephanie rushed in, a look of terror on her milk-white face.
"Jesus Christ!" She declared, quickly kneeling down next to him and pulling out her medical supplies.
Julian allowed himself to pass out, knowing that he was in the closest thing to safe hands this place had.
After another three hours of walking, mostly in silence, the sun finally started to go down. Livi had basically ignored the light pink sky while Jamia couldn't take her eyes away. The sunsets she was used to seeing were gray, as if to solidify the fact that Reds were the Grays underlings.
'We're in the sky while your as low as dirt.'
But this sunset was gorgeous.
"We should stop soon." Livi said suddenly.
"Out in the open?" Jamia asked, looking around for anywhere that seemed sheltered.
"No, there's some trees up ahead. I've slept there a few nights." Livi replied.
"How many times have you gone to visit this guy?" Jamia asked.
"All the time. It's very rare for other Gray's to come this far from the city. They try to stay where they feel safe or powerful. There are no police out here that can show them favoritism." Livi replied.
Jamia took a second to think about that. It was definitely true, so how would that be solved? A new police force comprised of entirely Reds? No police force? A police force that consisted of multiple different races so no one would get the favoritism?
"You can't solve it so easily." It was scary how well Livi could tell what Jamia was thinking. "It'll take years, if you want to fix the bias that's been going on for decades. President asshole has been drilling it into people's heads that Reds are bad. That Reds will hurt them. That Reds will kill them. Regardless of whether it's true or not. He doesn't care, as long as Grays keep the power. He doesn't care if people get hurt, if families get torn apart. He just wants his precious seat and his fancy-ass food." Livi finished her rant with a disgusted look on her face and kicking up the dirt on the path in front of her.
Jamia stopped walking.
"What's wrong?" Livi asked.
"We need to go back." Jamia stated simply.
"What?" Livi asked, as if Jamia had just suggested they run at a hungry lion.
"We need to go back." Jamia repeated.
"Have you lost your damn mind?" Livi replied, turning to face the younger girl.
"No. I'm thinking about Julian." Jamia replied.
"Your little brother?" Livi asked.
"So what are you thinking?" Livi asked, still shocked that Jamia was suggesting they go back to the city where they were both wanted criminals.
"I'm thinking we break into the place they take the really dangerous criminals and get Julian out." Jamia replied, smiling.
"And how are you planning to get there?" Livi asked.
"Well, first we'd have to get a weapon..." Jamia took off her backpack and reached inside for her dart launcher. When her hand wrapped around the small box she pulled it out and held it above her head in victory.
"What is that?" Livi asked.
"It's a dart launcher. They were normally used as self-defense weapons in the slums and the ghettos. They only fire sleep-darts. But the guys we point it at won't know that." Jamia smiled smugly thinking Livi was starting to rub off on her.
'Why are you telling her about your only weapon? She's a Gray. For all we know she was one of the ones that shot Julian. She could be hiding a gun under that ugly coat of her's. She's probably getting ready to pull it out and shoot you right now.'
'I... I don't know.' Jamia replied to the small voice of paranoia.
'Aren't you supposed to be the street-smart one? The one who knows what to do in a pinch to protect Julian?'
'So why are you teaming up with a Gray?'
'Because what Livi said is true. Hair and eyes shouldn't matter. If I tell her she can't earn my trust just because of how she looks, I'm being a complete hypocrite.'
'So? Haven't you earned the right to be a little hypocritical? Her people killed your parents. Her people have Julian. Her people are probably beating the sh*t out of him right now while you sit here and tell her about your only weapon.'
'I told you to shut up!' Jamia shouted at her paranoia. She wasn't even sure if it was paranoia anymore. More like the little voice in the back of your head that always questions everything you do. No matter the motive behind it.
"Jamia?" Livi waved a hand in front of Jamia's face. Waking her up from her little trance.
"You zoned out for a second there." Livi replied.
"Ok, so what are we gonna do after we hold them at sleep-dart point." Livi asked playfully.
"We... we... we..."
"I know a guy, don't worry about it." Livi interrupted with her signature smile back.
"You know a guy inside the prison?" Jamia asked in confusion.
"Yeah. A Gray who fell in love with a Red. We hid his girl and she's alive because of it. She's actually pregnant with their first kid." Livi replied in her signature smug tone that conveyed knowledge of superiority.
"Is he a prisoner or a guard?" Jamia asked.
"A guard. He'll let us in." Livi replied.
"And, how do you plan to establish contact with this guy?" Jamia asked.
Livi pulled out a disposable phone, similar to the ones Jamia and Julian shared.
"I've got his number." Livi replied, "we'll call him in the morning."
They continued walking until they found a small cluster of trees. They placed down their backpacks before Jamia instructed Livi to go to sleep so Jamia could take the first watch.
Julian awoke to the face of a new Gray man. The man's face was directly in front of his, as if he were being examined.
When Julian tried to jump backwards to get away from the man, he felt shockwaves of pain shoot through his arms and legs. Then he remembered his encounter with the Gray woman. What had her boss called her? Grayson?
"Ah, you're awake." The man said creepily, "I'm Grayson's boss. You're the Blaze she decided it would be a good idea to nearly kill for fun." The man introduced himself.
"Yeah." Julian replied softly.
"So, I decided it would be better for me to question you. Because I know just how valuable you are. Even if you won't tell us where the other Blaze is then I can just use you as a hostage to stop her from attempting to rescue you, should she try."
"She's not stupid enough to do that." Julian replied.
"Maybe not. But, if nothing else, I can have some fun with you on my own," The man smiled, showing off his cut and jagged teeth, "Now, where's the Blaze."
"I've said it at least 50 times, and I'll say it again. I. Don't. Know." Julian replied, trying to sound brave as opposed to completely terrified.
The man pulled out a pocket knife. Julian was tired of weapons being held or waved or pointed at his face. The man then pressed the blade against Julian's throat, as if he he would drag it across and watch as Julian bled out on the floor coughing and choking on his own blood, purely for pleasure.
"Oh, I'm sure you don't. But, where do you think she would go?" The man asked, pressing the knife into his throat, not hard enough to penetrate Julian's skin but enough to be uncomfortable.
Julian took a few seconds to think of a lie. Where would Jamia not go? She was not a sentimental person, so it was unlikely she'd try to go somewhere similar to their old home... She would probably go to a city thinking she'd be less likely to stand out in a crowd. So he would tell the man with the knife that Jamia was likely to be in one of the ghettos or slums.
"She... She's really sentimental, so she's probably in one of the ghettos or slums near here." Julian replied.
"See, was that so hard?" The man asked before removing his blade from Julian's throat.
"Now, if you just lied to me, I swear I will slit your throat when my men return. Do you understand me Blaze?" The man smiled at Julian, who just nodded.
"Good. I'll be back soon then." The man walked out of the room and Julian could hear multiple locks clicking. Julian didn't know why the man bothered, he wasn't going anywhere in this state anyways. Any small twitch in his limbs sent pain through his entire body, but he could ignore that, as long as the Grays didn't find Jamia.