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By Pintip Dunn, Liz Pelletier
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Pintip Dunn
All rights reserved.
My sister Callie didn't kill herself so I could risk my future pulling stupid stunts. Yet here I am, hanging upside down over a cage of mice, while my best friend, Ryder Russell, anchors me with a rope and pulley as he squats in the air duct.
"If you drop me, I'll tell Mikey you snuck out of the compound last weekend," I say, too softly to set off the sensors inside the lab but loudly enough for Ryder to hear.
"If I drop you, my dad will be the least of our problems."
I stretch my fingers toward the metal cage, making sure my shirt stays tucked into my pants. I have a unique, blobby-hand birthmark at my waist, one I'd like to keep hidden from the security cameras. "A few more inches, and that should do it," I say.
Ryder grunts, and I fall half a foot.
My heart bounces as if it were attached to a bungee cord. But he won't drop me. He never has. This is our fourth time breaking into a lab, and we haven't made a mistake yet.
I swing my arms and reach for the cage door. Ryder and I bicker like brother and sister, but we're a team. From the time we were six years old and he gave me "first turns" with the mud puddles. He's like a cloud of gnats — always annoying and yet endearingly loyal. I'd never be able to do this without him.
One last swing, and I grab the latch. The cage is so big it runs the length of the counter. Inside, hundreds of white-furred, pink-nosed mice climb over one another, wriggle under the straw, and run through a three-level maze with bells and doors.
Below the latch, taped to the counter, is a photo ID. Even upside down, Tanner Callahan's straight brows and barely curved lips look cocky.
Of course they do. Tanner's sixteen, like me, but ever since he was a kid, the Technology Research Agency's been training him to become one of them: a scientist. I've heard rumors that his parents died in an accident, and he's grown up as an orphan within the walls of TechRA, adopted for all intents and purposes by a government organization.
Exaggeration? Maybe. But that doesn't mean he has to swagger around school like he's some kind of genius. Even if he kinda is.
I pry open the gate, setting off the silent alarm. The countdown begins. I have exactly one minute before the guards burst into the lab.
The mouse closest to me sniffs the air, as if testing the smell of freedom, and then clambers out of the cage. Another follows. And then another. Pretty soon, an avalanche of mice pours out of the opening and disappears behind the computer equipment and nests of wires.
Go on, little mice. Wriggle your way to a better life. Anything's better than being imprisoned here, day after day, at the mercy of scientists who treat your brain like a Petri dish.
I should know. That was me, ten years ago. Strapped to a reclining chair, hooked to a million sensors, forced to inhale chemical-laced fumes. If Callie hadn't broken into the Future Memory Agency, if my sister hadn't sacrificed herself to save me, I might still be there today.
Never again. If I can help it, no other living creature will be subject to the scientists' whims, either.
"All set," I say to Ryder. "Get me out of here."
The pulley creaks, and I inch up, up, up toward the ceiling. Victory, sweet and heady, floods my veins. We did it. We freed another cage of mice. There are dozens more cages just like this one, but at least these mice won't be studied. Will no longer be tortured. There's success in that.
I'm halfway to the ceiling when I notice him. A mouse, with his foot caught in the grating, half in, half out of the cage. The other mice scamper over him, their claws digging into his head as though he were just another obstacle.
The mouse pulls and tugs, but he can't get his leg loose. As the cage empties, his movements become more frantic, as if he realizes this is his last chance to escape. When he's the only one left, he flips his body around and attacks the caught leg with his teeth.
I suck in a breath. This must be one of the hyperintelligent mice I've heard about. He understands. He calculates. He weighs morality and makes decisions, just like us.
The upward motion halts, and my teeth click together.
"What is it?" Ryder asks.
"A mouse is stuck. Lower me so I can help."
The rope jiggles. "The guards will be here in thirty seconds."
"He's about to gnaw off his leg. We have to help."
"Do it, Ry!"
I fall through the air so quickly I bump my head on the counter. I grit my teeth, ignoring the throbbing. I reach for the mouse instead. He turns and bites my hand, his teeth breaking through my glove and sinking into skin.
Ow. Lightning streaks across my brain, and I waste several moments blinking away the pain. This isn't the first time a mouse has bitten me. In fact, my gloves are all scratched up from the scrape of teeth. But it's the first time a bite has broken through their thick, protective material.
"Twenty seconds," Ryder says above me. "Come on, Jessa. The mouse isn't worth it. Leave him."
No way. I press two fingers on the mouse's jaw, wrap my hand around his torso, and pull.
Maybe I yank too hard. Or maybe the mouse had already gnawed through too much of his flesh. Whatever the reason, the leg separates from his body. And stays in the grating.
Shocked, I drop the mouse, and he hobbles away, his three legs scratching against the counter.
I stare at the detached leg. Furless, pink. The size of a matchstick. The skin is loose and bunched, the toes disproportionately long. Nausea roils in my stomach. My mouth dries, and I'm light-headed, but that could be from hanging upside down too long.
"Ten seconds," Ryder says. "Are you ready?"
I take a shuddering breath. Retreat first. Mourn later. "Yeah. Pull me up."
I fly through the air as if I'm on a zip line. Ryder grabs me under the arms and hauls me into the air duct, just as the lab door opens and half a dozen guards in navy uniforms spill into the room.
The ceiling panel is still uncovered, but a mechanical "spider" sits at the edge of the hole, projecting a holographic image that makes the surface appear smooth and uninterrupted.
I pull my knees to my chest and will myself not to move. Not to breathe. Not to look at the tiny severed limb stuck in the cage.
Oh Fates, I didn't mean to hurt him. The last thing I wanted was to rip off his leg. I was only trying to help.
In the dimness of the chute, I meet Ryder's eyes. His six-three frame is folded like origami, and the smooth darkness of his skin blends into the shadows. I read in his face the same emotion that compresses the walls of my throat. He saw the limb, too.
Below us, a strong voice cuts through the din. Through the holographic screen, Tanner pushes his way through the guards. His tousled black hair falls into his eyes, and he wears his bad-boy-scientist uniform — dark thermal shirt and cargo pants. Clothes just as appropriate for running lab experiments as for racing around on a hoverboard.
Here it comes. Tanner Callahan, boy genius, is about to throw a fit that will blow the spirals off this steel and glass building.
But he doesn't. Instead, he crouches in front of the cage and studies the leg. And then, with a gentleness even a precog couldn't have foreseen, he wiggles the limb loose and wraps it in a piece of white gauze.
I gape. He's not actually ... sad ... about the amputated leg? He can't be. They're not pets to him. The only person — or thing — he cares about is himself.
No. I can't start imagining things that don't exist. This is the boy who plays holo-images of himself across the inside of his locker, for Fate's sake. And if that's not enough, he's declared his loyalty to the scientists, who have only one goal. Under the direction of Chairwoman Dresden, their purpose is to discover a way for people to send memories back to their younger selves, so that our society can return to a time with no guesswork and only guarantees. A time when every seventeen-year-old knew exactly what his or her future held.
I wrench my eyes from Tanner and hook my fingers through the harness strapped across my torso. All of a sudden, I can't wait for the guards to leave so we can crawl through the air ducts back to our secret entrance in Mikey's office.
Callie died in order to prevent future memory from being invented. She killed herself so the horrendous vision she saw of our world would not come true.
Anyone who seeks to undermine my sister's sacrifice is automatically my adversary. And I will never, ever forget who my enemy is. No matter how sorry he might feel for a mouse with three legs.CHAPTER 2
"You should've seen the leg," I say to Logan a couple of hours later. I'm back in the Harmony compound I call my home, and we're balancing a rowboat over our heads as we make our way through the twenty or so individual family houses. "It was so small. It might have even been moving." My heart thuds behind the black tourmaline pendant hanging around my neck.
He turns, and we lower the boat to the moving sidewalk that weaves through the compound. Even though we aren't walking, the projected holos, the transport tubes, and the metal gardens continue to zoom by. Logan's ten years older than me, the age my sister would've been if she had lived. In the last decade, his swimmer's build has gotten even broader, and the lines around his eyes and jaw have hardened.
And yet, he's still good-looking, still the boy Callie fell in love with as a teenager. Still the friend who whisked me away from FuMA after my sister injected herself. Still the protector who looked out for me all those years the psychics were on the run from the government.
"Why didn't you use your precognition?" he asks. "You could've seen what was about to happen."
I let go of the boat and grab my necklace. "You know why I couldn't."
Callie. It all comes back to Callie. When she stabbed the needle into her chest, she took away more than her life. She also took Logan's heart — and eventually my desire to use my psychic abilities ever again.
"Besides, I don't think my precognition is that powerful," I say. "It's good for simple physical events just a few minutes in the future — or the will of one or two people. Not so accurate for complex situations with so many independent minds. You need someone with real precognition for that."
He frowns, as though remembering his last brush with a real precog — and the vision of genocide she showed him and Callie. "You've got to stop breaking into labs. First, it was cliff-diving, and then parasailing, and now this. Do you have a death wish, Jessa?"
"No more than you," I retort. "Look at you, spending all your time in the water. I don't think you'd ever surface for air if Angela didn't make you."
"At least I'm not hell-bent on being a rebel." The moving sidewalk curves around a corner, and he leans along with it. "You need to put aside this risky behavior. Start focusing on the future. Now, more than ever, employers are returning to the old ways of evaluation, like they used to do before future memory. School is important. Your grades are important. How are you going to get a job if you don't start applying yourself?"
I don't lean, just to be contrary, and as a result, I'm almost knocked off balance. "Easy for you to say. You always had your future memory. You always knew you were going to be a gold-star swimmer."
"We've been given a chance for a new start, Jessa," he says softly. "Don't mess this up."
We certainly have been. After Callie's sacrifice, Logan and I fled civilization to join Harmony, a wilderness community governed by its own laws. We were on the run for six years before the Committee of Agencies, or ComA, realized that without the psychics, their research into future memory came to a standstill. So they offered a deal to the Underground, the covert organization made up of psychics and their families. It wasn't easy for them to find our leaders. After all, the identities of the Underground members are kept secret for a reason. But a few well-placed whispers got the message to the right people. ComA was desperate, and they were willing to compromise to get back their psychic citizens.
Compromise they did. They granted the people of Harmony amnesty for breaking the law and legislated that we would no longer be coerced into experimental testing. They promised us the luxuries of every normal citizen and even our very own compound. That way, we could continue living as the same tight-knit community we were in the wilderness — just transported to Eden City.
ComA said the compound was a perk, but we all know better. Really, it's just a way for them to keep an extra-careful eye on us, so that they can quell any rebellious uprisings before they begin. The other members of the Underground were invited to join us, but they would be stupid to do so. ComA can say whatever they want about no longer hunting down the psychics. No one's about to announce that he or she has special powers.
Still, the treaty was a chance for us to stop running. To live back in civilization once again. So we took the deal, and our leader, Mikey — Logan's brother and Ryder's adopted father — oversaw the construction of the compound.
We came back. But I'm not sure I'll ever be a normal citizen.
Logan gestures to the rowboat, indicating we should pick it up again. "If they catch you breaking into their labs, all bets are off. You know the scientists have been salivating to get their lab gloves on you. ComA's treaty will be cheerfully ignored once you're in detainment."
Guilt coats my throat like thick slime. I knew I was risking more than myself by breaking into the labs. But his words, and the mild reproach in his tone, make me want to slit a hole in the cosmos and disappear.
In a different future, Callie and I held the key to the invention of future memory. She took herself out of the equation, but I'm still here. My brain is still fertile ground to excavate. And yet, since she and I were a Sender-Receiver pair, the scientists can't discover anything without her. Right?
"I couldn't leave the mice to the whim of the scientists," I say, not looking at Logan. "It's cruel the way they're treated."
"Not as cruel as genocide."
He doesn't have to remind me.
We don't speak as we step off the sidewalk and exit the compound. We walk into the woods — an almost entirely different world. Here, in this small, dwindling-by-the-day patch of forest, there's no metal or technology. There's just vegetation and rocks and the smell of rich, damp soil. If there was ever a place for peace and relaxation, this is it.
Problem is, when we reach the gurgling river and push off in the rowboat, Logan still isn't talking to me. I don't know if the silent treatment is just the way our friendship is — or if he's annoyed at me.
We lived in the wilderness for six years, where the sky was our ceiling and the grass was our floor. Those first few months after we left, in those days when I didn't talk, and not even Ryder and his mud puddles could draw me out, Logan would take me on the water.
He would row until we reached a pool of still water, and we'd sit in silence for hours. I'd look at the fish swimming below the surface and the water rippling in concentric circles, and the knots inside my stomach would slowly unwind. As though I could finally stretch after crouching too long in the restrictive box of grief.
This was how we mourned Callie, in the first months after her death. And even though Logan's busy with his swimming career and I'm busy with school, this is how we mourn her still.
I drag my oars through the river, and drops of cold water sprinkle on my forearms. Logan's face is clenched in concentration, the way he looks before one of his swim meets. Yep, definitely mad.
I try to think of something to say — and then a prickly sensation converges on my brain. I drop the oar and clutch my head.
"Are you okay?" Logan grabs my oar before it slides into the water. "What's wrong?"
Whispers rumble at the edge of my mind, digging their sharp talons into my scalp. It's not painful, exactly. Just uncomfortable. Like an insect has crawled into my head space and is buzzing around the empty cavity.
"It's probably nothing," I say through gritted teeth. "I bumped my head on the counter when Ryder was lowering me, and I have a migraine. That's all."
Even as I say the words, I look at my hand, which throbs where the mouse bit me. Where his teeth broke through the glove and pierced skin. The marks are red and swollen, and angry streaks radiate from the bite.
I swallow. Could I be reacting to it? Nah. These are lab mice. It's not like they have rabies.
Excerpted from Remember Yesterday by Pintip Dunn, Liz Pelletier. Copyright © 2016 Pintip Dunn. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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