Home > Prodigy (Legend #2)(4)

Prodigy (Legend #2)(4)
Marie Lu

The JumboTrons start broadcasting a newsreel. Weekly recap. Day and I watch the headlines zip by on the screens:

REPUBLIC TRIUMPHANTLY TAKES OVER MILES OF COLONIES’ LAND IN BATTLE FOR AMARILLO, EAST TEXAS

FLOOD WARNING CANCELLED FOR SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA

ELECTOR VISITS TROOPS ON NORTHERN WARFRONT, BOOSTS MORALE

Most of them are fairly uninteresting—the usual headlines coming in from the warfront, updates on weather and laws, quarantine notices for Vegas.

Then Day taps my shoulder and gestures at one of the screens.

QUARANTINE IN LOS ANGELES EXTENDED TO EMERALD, OPAL SECTORS

“Gem sectors?” Day whispers. My eyes are still fixed on the screen, even though the headline has passed. “Don’t rich folks live there?”

I’m not sure what to say in return because I’m still trying to process the information myself. Emerald and Opal sectors . . . Is this a mistake? Or have the plagues in LA gotten serious enough to be broadcast on Vegas JumboTrons? I’ve never, ever seen quarantines extended into the upper-class sectors. Emerald sector borders Ruby—does that mean my home sector is going to be quarantined too? What about our vaccinations? Aren’t they supposed to prevent things like this? I think back on Metias’s journal entries. One of these days, he’d said, there will be a virus unleashed that none of us will be able to stop. I remember the things Metias had unveiled, the underground factories, the rampant diseases . . . the systematic plagues. A shiver runs through me. Los Angeles will quell it, I tell myself. The plague will die down, just like it always does.

More headlines sweep by. A familiar one is about Day’s execution. It plays the clip of the firing squad yard where Day’s brother John took the bullets meant for Day, then fell facedown on the ground. Day turns his eyes to the pavement.

Another headline is newer. It says this:

MISSING

SS NO: 2001963034

------------------------

JUNE IPARIS

AGENT, LOS ANGELES CITY PATROL

AGE/GENDER: 15, FEMALE

HEIGHT: 5’4”

HAIR: BROWN

EYES: BROWN

LAST SEEN NEAR BATALLA HALL, LOS ANGELES, CA

350,000 REPUBLIC NOTES REWARD

IF SEEN, REPORT IMMEDIATELY TO YOUR LOCAL OFFICIAL

That’s what the Republic wants their people to think. That I’m missing, that they hope to bring me back safe and sound. What they don’t say is that they probably want me dead. I helped the country’s most notorious criminal escape his execution, aided the rebel Patriots in a staged uprising against a military headquarters, and turned my back on the Republic.

But they wouldn’t want that information going public, so they hunt for me quietly. The missing report shows the photo from my military ID—a face-forward, unsmiling shot of me, barefaced but for a touch of gloss, dark hair tied back in a high ponytail, a gold Republic seal gleaming against the black of my coat. I’m grateful that the phoenix tattoo hides half of my face right now.

We make it to the middle of the main strip before the speakers crackle again for the pledge. Day and I stop walking. Day stumbles again and almost falls, but I manage to catch him fast enough to keep him upright. People on the street look up to the JumboTrons (except for a handful of soldiers who line the edges of each intersection in order to ensure everyone’s participation). The screens flicker. Their images vanish into blackness, and are then replaced by high-definition portraits of the Elector Primo.

I pledge allegiance—

It’s almost comforting to repeat these words with everyone else on the streets, at least until I remind myself of all that’s changed. I think back to the evening when I’d first captured Day, when the Elector and his son came to personally congratulate me for putting a notorious criminal behind bars. I recall how the Elector had looked in person. The portraits on the JumboTrons show the same green eyes, strong jaw, and curled locks of dark hair . . . but they leave out the coldness in his expression and the sickly color of his skin. His portraits make him seem fatherly, with healthy pink cheeks. Not how I remember him.

—to the flag of the great Republic of America—

Suddenly the broadcast pauses. There’s silence on the streets, then a chorus of confused whispers. I frown. Unusual. I’ve never seen the pledge interrupted, not even once. And the JumboTron system is hooked up so one screen’s outage shouldn’t affect the rest.

Day looks up to the stalled screens while my eyes dart to the soldiers lining the street. “Freak accident?” he says. His labored breathing worries me. Hang on just a little longer. We can’t stop here.

I shake my head. “No. Look at the troops.” I nod subtly in their direction. “They’ve changed their stances. Their rifles aren’t slung over their shoulders anymore—they’re holding them now. They’re bracing themselves for a reaction from the crowd.”

Day shakes his head slowly. He looks unsettlingly pale. “Something’s happened.”

The Elector’s portrait vanishes from the JumboTrons and is immediately replaced with a new series of images. They show a man who is the spitting image of the Elector—only much younger, barely in his twenties, with the same green eyes and dark, wavy hair. In a flash I recall the touch of excitement I’d felt when I first met him at the celebratory ball. This is Anden Stavropoulos, the son of the Elector Primo.

Day’s right. Something big has happened.

The Republic’s Elector has died.

A new, upbeat voice takes over the speakers. “Before continuing our pledge, we must instruct all soldiers and civilians to replace the Elector portraits in your homes. You may pick up a new portrait from your local police headquarters. Inspections to ensure your cooperation will commence in two weeks.”

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