The Passage Page 68

"Lish, you know I can't leave you here. Sanjay will have my ass. You're not even Watch anymore."

"Maybe not, but Peter is. And since when did you start taking orders from Sanjay?"

"Since this morning." He gave them a puzzled look. "Jimmy says so. Sanjay declared a ... what do you call it? A civil emergency."

"We know all about that. That doesn't mean Sanjay gives the orders."

"You better tell Jimmy. He seems to think so. Galen too."

"Galen? What does Galen have to do with anything?"

"You haven't heard?" Dale scanned their faces quickly. "I guess you wouldn't have. Galen's Second Captain now."

"Galen Strauss?"

Dale shrugged. "It doesn't make sense to me, either. Jimmy just called everyone together and told us Galen had your slot, and Ian has Theo's."

"What about Jimmy's? If he's moved up to First Captain now, who has his slot at second?"

"Ben Chou."

Ben and Ian: It made sense. Both were in line for second. But Galen?

"Give me the key," Alicia said. "Go get two more Watchers. No captains. Find Soo if you can, and tell her what I told you."

"I don't know who that leaves-"

"I mean it, Dale," Alicia said. "Just go."

They opened the lockup and stepped inside. The room was barren, a featureless concrete box. Old toilet stalls, long since emptied of their fixtures, stood along one wall; facing these was a line of pipes and above it a long mirror, fogged with tiny cracks.

Caleb was sitting on the floor under the windows. They'd left him a jug of water and a bucket, but that was all. Lish balanced her cross against one of the stalls and crouched before him.

"Are they gone?"

Alicia nodded. Peter could see how frightened the boy was. He looked like he'd been crying.

"I'm so screwed, Lish. Sanjay's going to put me out for sure."

"That's not going to happen. I promise you."

He wiped his runny nose with the back of a hand. His face and hands were filthy, his nails encrusted with grime. "What can you do?"

"Let me worry about that." She drew a blade off her belt. "You know how to use this?"

"Flyers, Lish. What am I going to do with a blade?"

"Just in case. Do you?"

"I can whittle some. I'm not very good."

She pressed it into his hand. "Put it out of sight."

"Lish," Peter said quietly, "you think that's such a good idea?"

"I'm not leaving him unarmed." She fixed her eyes on Caleb again. "You just hold tight and be ready. Anything happens, and you have a chance to get away, don't hesitate. You run like hell for the cutout. There's cover there, I'll find you."

"Why there?"

They heard voices outside. "It'll take too long to explain. Are we clear?"

Dale stepped back into the room, a single Watcher trailing behind him, Sunny Greenberg. She was just sixteen, a runner. Not even a season on the Walls.

"Lish, I'm not fooling," Dale said. "You have to get out of here."

"Relax. We're leaving." But when Alicia rose to her feet and saw Sunny standing in the doorway, she stopped. Her eyes flashed with anger. "This is the best you could do? A runner?"

"Everybody else is on the Wall."

Twelve hours ago, Peter realized, Alicia could have gotten anyone she wanted, a full detail. Now she had to beg for scraps.

"What about Soo?" Alicia pressed. "Did you see her?"

"I don't know where she is. She's probably up there too." Dale's eyes darted to Peter. "Will you just get her out of here?"

Sunny, who so far had said nothing, moved farther into the room. "Dale, what are you doing? I thought you said Jimmy ordered another guard. Why are you taking orders from her?"

"Lish was just helping out."

"Dale, she's not a captain. She's not even Watch." The girl acknowledged Alicia with a quick, faintly embarrassed shrug. "No offense to you, Lish."

"None taken." Alicia gestured toward the cross the girl was holding at her side. "Tell me something. You any good with that thing?"

A falsely modest shrug. "Highest scores in my grade."

"Well, I hope that's true. Because it looks like you just got promoted." Alicia turned to Caleb again. "You'll be all right in here?"

The boy nodded.

"Just remember what I told you. I won't be far."

And with that, Alicia looked at Dale and Sunny one last time, using her eyes to communicate her meaning-Make no mistake, this is personal-and led Peter from the lockup.


Sanjay Patal, Head of the Household, might have said that it had all started years ago. It had started with the dreams.

Not about the girl: he'd never dreamed about her, of that he was certain. Or mostly certain. This Girl from Nowhere-that's what everyone was calling her, even Old Chou; the phrase had, in the space of just a morning, become her name-had arrived in their midst full blown, like an apparition borne from the darkness as a being of flesh and blood. Her sheer impossibility refuted by the fact of her existence. He'd searched his mind but could find her nowhere in it, not in the part he knew as himself, as Sanjay Patal, nor in the other: the secret, dreaming part of him.

For the feeling had lain within him as long as Sanjay could remember. The feeling that was like a whole other person, a separate soul that dwelled within his own. A soul with a name and a voice that sang inside him, Be my one. I am yours and you are mine and together we are greater than the sum, the sum of our parts.

Since he was a Little in the Sanctuary, the dream had come to him. A dream of a long-gone world and a voice that sang inside him. It was, in its way, a dream like any other, made of sound and light and sensation. A dream of a fat woman in her kitchen, breathing smoke. The woman shoving food into her wide, wobbling cave of a mouth, talking into her telephone, a curious object with a place to talk into and another to listen. Somehow he knew what this thing was, that it was a telephone, and in this manner Sanjay had come to understand that this wasn't just a dream he was having. It was a vision. A vision of the Time Before. And the voice inside him singing its mysterious name: I am Babcock.

I am Babcock. We are Babcock.

Babcock. Babcock. Babcock.

He'd thought of Babcock, back then, as a kind of imaginary friend-no different, really, than a game of pretend, though the game did not end. Babcock was always with him, in the Big Room and the courtyard and taking his meals and climbing into his cot at night. The events of the dream had felt no different to him than the other dreams he had, the usual sorts of things, silly and childish, like taking a bath or playing on the tires or watching a squirrel eating nuts. Sometimes he dreamed those things and sometimes he dreamed about a fat woman in the Time Before, and there was no rhyme or reason to it.

He remembered a day, long ago, sitting in circle in the Big Room when Teacher had said, Let's talk about what it means to be a friend. The children had just had lunch; he was full of the warm, sleepy feeling of having eaten a meal. The other Littles were laughing and fooling around though he was not, he wasn't like that, he did as he was told, and then Teacher clapped her hands to silence them and because he was so good, the only one, she turned to him, her kind face wearing the expression of someone about to bestow a present, the wonderful present of her attention, and said, Tell us, Little Sanjay, who are your friends?

"Babcock," he replied.

No thought was involved; the word had simply popped out on its own. At once he realized the scope of his error, saying this secret name. Out in the air it seemed to wither, diminishing with exposure. Teacher was frowning uncertainly; the word meant nothing to her. Babcock? she repeated. Had she heard him correctly? And Sanjay understood that not everyone knew who this was, of course they didn't, why had he thought they did? Babcock was something special and private, all his own, and saying his name the way he had, so thoughtlessly, wishing only to please and be good, was a mistake. More than a mistake: a violation. To say the name was to take its specialness away. Who is Babcock, Little Sanjay? In the awful silence that followed-the children had all stopped talking, their attention snapping to this alien word-he heard someone snicker; in his memory it was Demo Jaxon, whom he hated even then-and then another and another, the sounds of their ridicule leaping around the circle of seated children like sparks around a fire. Demo Jaxon: of course it would be him. Sanjay was First Family too, but the way Demo acted, with his smooth, easy smile and effortless way of being liked, it was as if there was a second, rarer category, First of the First, and he, Demo Jaxon, was the only one in it.

But most hurtful of all was Raj. Little Raj, two years Sanjay's junior-who should have respected him, who should have held his tongue-had joined in the laughter too. He was seated on his folded legs to Sanjay's left-if Sanjay was at six o'clock and Demo at high noon, Raj was somewhere in the middle of the morning-and as Sanjay watched in horror, his brother shot Demo a quick inquiring glance, seeking his approval. You see? Raj's eyes said. See how I can make fun of Sanjay, too? Teacher was clapping her hands again, trying to restore order; Sanjay knew that if he didn't do something fast, he'd never hear the end of it. Their shrill chorus would ring in his ears, at meals and after lights-out and in the courtyard when Teacher had stepped away. Babcock! Babcock! Babcock! Like a bathroom word or worse. Sanjay has a little Babcock!

He knew what he had to say.

"I'm sorry, Teacher. I meant Demo. Demo is my friend." He gave his most earnest smile to the little boy across from him, with his cap of dark hair-Jaxon hair-and pearl-like teeth and restless, roving eyes. If Raj could do it, so could he. "Demo Jaxon is my best friend of all."

Strange to recall that day now, so many years later. Demo Jaxon gone without a trace, and Willem, and Raj, too; half the children who'd sat in the circle that afternoon were dead or taken up. Dark Night would get the majority; the others would find their own ways to vanish, each in his time. A kind of slow nibbling, of being eaten away; that's what life did, that was how it felt. So many years gone by-the passage of time itself a kind of marvel-and Babcock a part of it all. Like a voice inside him, quietly urging, being a friend to him when others could not, though not always speaking in words. Babcock was a feeling he had about the world. Not since that day in the Sanctuary had he spoken of Babcock again.

And it was true that, over time, the feeling of Babcock, and the dreams, had become something else again. Not the fat woman in the Time Before, though that still happened every now and then. (And come to think of it, what had Sanjay been doing in the Lighthouse that strange night? He no longer recalled.) Not the past but the future, and his place, Sanjay's place, within its new unfolding. Something was about to happen, something large. He didn't know quite what. The Colony couldn't last forever, Demo had been right about that, and Joe Fisher too; someday, the lights were going out. They were living on borrowed time. The Army was gone, dead, never to return; a few people still clung to the idea, but not Sanjay Patal. Whatever was coming wasn't the Army.

He knew all about the guns, of course. The guns that weren't a secret, quite. It wasn't Raj who had told him; Sanjay should have expected this, but still it came as a disappointment, to know that Raj had chosen Demo over him. But Raj had told Mimi, who had told Gloria-Raj's chattering gossip of a wife couldn't keep a secret longer than about five seconds; she was a Ramirez, after all-who, one morning over breakfast, in the days right after Demo Jaxon had disappeared, slipping out the gate when no one was looking without so much as a blade in his belt, had let it drop, then flat-out blurted the story, saying, I'm not sure you're supposed to know.

Twelve crates of them, Gloria told him, her voice lowered confidentially, her face radiating the earnestness of an eager pupil. Down at the station, behind a wall that pulled away. Shiny new guns, Army guns, from a bunker Demo and Raj and the others had found. Was it important? Gloria wanted to know. Had she done the right thing, telling him? Her anxiety was all pretense; her voice said one thing, but her eyes told him the truth. She knew what the guns meant. Yes, he said, nodding equably. Yes, I think it may be. I think it's best if we keep this to ourselves. Thank you, Gloria, for letting me know.

Sanjay had no illusions that he was the only one. He'd gone straight to Mimi that morning, explaining to her in no uncertain terms that she mustn't tell anyone else. But surely a secret like that would be impossible to keep. Zander had to know; the station was his domain. Probably Old Chou too, since Demo told him everything. Sanjay didn't think Soo knew, or Jimmy, or Dana, Willem's girl. Sanjay had probed around the edges, never detecting a thing. But certainly there were others-Theo Jaxon, for one-and whom had they told? To whom had they, in confidence, as Gloria had that morning at breakfast, whispered, "I have a secret you should know"? So it wasn't a question of whether the guns would come out, only when, and under what circumstances, and-a lesson he had learned that morning in the Sanctuary-who was friends with whom.

Which was why Sanjay had wanted Mausami off the Watch, away from Theo Jaxon.

Since the day she'd been born, Sanjay had known it about her: she was the reason for everything. True, there had been times, even recently, when Sanjay had found himself wishing for a son, sensing that this would have bestowed a completeness that his life would otherwise lack. But Gloria was simply not able; the usual miscarriages and false alarms, and her bleeding had faded away. Mausami had been born after a pregnancy that itself had seemed like yet one more disaster in the making-Gloria had spotted nearly the entire time-and a torturous, two-day labor that had seemed to Sanjay, forced to listen to her desperate moans from the outer room of the Infirmary, like nothing a person could possibly withstand.

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