Home > Prodigy (Legend #2)(5)

Prodigy (Legend #2)(5)
Marie Lu

The voice announces the supposed results of a nationwide election. But there’s not a single mention of the Elector’s death. Or of his son’s promotion.

The Republic has simply moved on to the next Elector without skipping a beat, as if Anden were the same person as his father. My head swims—I try to remember what I’d learned in school about choosing a new Elector. The Elector always picked the successor, and a national election would confirm it. It’s no surprise that Anden is next in line—but our Elector had been in power for decades, long before I was born. Now he’s gone. Our world has shifted in a matter of seconds.

Like me and Day, everyone on the street understands what the appropriate thing to do is: As if on cue, we all bow to the JumboTron portraits and recite the rest of the pledge that has reappeared on the screens. “—to our Elector Primo, to our glorious states, to unity against the Colonies, to our impending victory!” We repeat this over and over for as long as the words stay on the screen, no one daring to stop. I glance at the soldiers lining the streets. Their hands have tightened on their rifles. Finally, after what seems like hours, the words disappear and the JumboTrons return to their usual news rolls. We all begin walking again, as if nothing had happened.

Then Day stumbles. This time I feel him tremble, and my heart clenches. “Stay with me,” I whisper. To my surprise I almost say, Stay with me, Metias. I try to hold him up, but he slips.

“I’m sorry,” he murmurs back. His face is shiny with sweat, his eyes shut tightly in pain. He holds two fingers to his brow. Stop. He can’t make it.

I look wildly around us. Too many soldiers—we still have a lot of ground to cover. “No, you have to,” I say firmly. “Stay with me. You can make it.”

But it’s no use this time. Before I can catch him, he falls onto his hands and collapses to the ground.

THE ELECTOR PRIMO IS DEAD.

This whole display seems pretty anticlimactic, doesn��t it? You’d think the Elector’s death would be accompanied by a goddy funeral march of some sort, panic in the streets, national mourning, marching soldiers firing off salutes into the sky. An enormous banquet, flags flying low, white banners hanging over every building. Something cracked like that. But I haven’t lived long enough to see an Elector die. Outside of the promotion of the late Elector’s desired successor and some fake national election for show, I wouldn’t know how it goes.

I guess the Republic just pretends it never happened and skips right ahead to the next Elector. Now I remember reading about this in one of my grade school classes. When the time comes for a new Elector Primo, the country must remind the people to focus on the positive. Mourning brings weakness and chaos. Moving forward is the only way. Yeah. The government’s that scared of showing uncertainty to their civilians.

But I only have a second to dwell on this.

We’ve barely finished the new pledge when a rush of pain hits my leg. Before I can stop myself, I double over and collapse down onto my good knee. A couple of soldiers turn their heads in our direction. I laugh as loud as I can, pretending the tears in my eyes are from amusement. June plays along, but I can see the fear on her face. “Come on,” she whispers frantically. One of her slender arms wraps around my waist, and I try to take the hand she offers me. All around the sidewalk, people are noticing us for the first time. “You have to get up. Come on.”

It takes all my strength to keep a smile on my face. Focus on June. I try to stand—then fall again. Damn. The pain is too much. White light stabs at the back of my eyes. Breathe, I tell myself. You can’t faint in the middle of the Vegas strip.

“What’s the matter, soldier?”

A young, hazel-eyed corporal is standing in front of us with his arms crossed. I can tell he’s kind of in a hurry, but apparently it’s not urgent enough to keep him from checking on us. He raises an eyebrow at me. “Are you all right? You’re pale as porcelain, kid.”

Run. I feel an urge to scream at June. Get out of here—there’s still time. But she saves me from speaking. “You’ll have to forgive him, sir,” she says. “I’ve never seen a Bellagio patron drink so much in one sitting.” She shakes her head regretfully and waves him back with one hand. “You might want to step away,” she continues. “I think he needs to throw up.” I find myself amazed—yet again—at how smoothly she can become another person. The same way she fooled me on the streets of Lake.

The corporal gives her an ambivalent frown before turning back to me. His eyes focus on my injured leg. Even though it’s hidden under a thick layer of pants, he studies it. “I’m not sure your escort knows what she’s talking about. Seems like you could use a trip to the hospital.” He raises a hand to wave down a passing medic truck.

I shake my head. “No, thank you, sir,” I manage to say with a weak laugh. “This darling’s telling me too many jokes. Gotta catch my breath is all—then gotta go sleep it off. We’re—”

But he’s not paying attention to what I’m saying. I curse silently. If we go to the hospital, they’ll fingerprint us, and then they’ll know exactly who we are—the Republic’s two most wanted fugitives. I don’t dare glance at June, but I know she’s trying to find a way out too.

Then someone pokes her head out from behind the corporal.

She’s a girl both June and I recognize right away, although I’ve never seen her in a freshly polished Republic uniform before. A pair of pilot goggles hangs around her neck. She walks around the corporal and stands in front of me, smiling indulgently. “Hey!” she says. “I thought that was you—I saw you stumbling around like a madman all the way down the street!”

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