Rebel Grey

Rebel Grey, a Dystopian Teen Fantasy Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight

Later, back at the safe house in the dirty, dilapidated outlands…

 

The safe house was quiet when they arrived. The younger kids were already asleep in the mattresses and cots. The older kids gathered in small groups, talking in subdued tones. No one was playing or laughing. The atmosphere in the place was like the refugee camps that had popped up all over the city during the war. Petra’s stomach roiled. It was all her fault.

Lux frowned around at the kids and shook her head. “Beth isn’t here.”

Petra scowled. “Damnit. Where is she?”

“She’s probably with the Uprising. That’s good. She’ll be able to tell us when she gets back if the rebels have the prince.”

“Call her. I want to know.”

Lux rolled her eyes. “No. It’s safer not to alert the rebels that we’re looking for him. We never have known for sure that Beth doesn’t tell them what we know. If he’s still out there in the streets somewhere, we don’t want to risk them finding out about it.”

“Beth is trustworthy. She doesn’t tell them what we tell her.”

Lux lifted an eyebrow. “Don’t be naïve, Petra. The Uprising considers this a war. Beth is part of it. She believes in their cause, and she does what she has to. She isn’t going to keep things from her people to be loyal to children.”

“If she had told them, they would have come for Grey when he was at the compound.”

“Not necessarily. They might have been waiting to see what was going to happen. And they might know he’s out there now in the outlands somewhere.”

“I trust Beth.”

“Fine. Then you can speak to her when she gets home. It should be anytime; she usually comes home before it gets too dangerous out there in the streets.”

It wasn’t as good as Petra had hoped, but it was as good as she was going to get. She nodded and spun away from Lux before her disappointment could get the best of her. She couldn’t just sit there, safe in the old warehouse while Grey was out there alone, while everyone in the city was searching for him. While someone wanted him deadvery badly. She climbed the stairs to the private office two at a time. She wasn’t sure what she planned to do, but she needed a few moments alone. She needed time to think.

The light was off in the office. When she flipped it on, she realized someone was already inside. Petra jumped in surprise. It was a young man with dark, shoulder-length hair. His clothes looked dirty and torn. There was blood on them. She almost didn’t recognize him until he spun to face her. She gasped. “Grey?”

He didn’t say anything for a moment. He looked back at her with an expression of such profound uncertainty, such terrible defeat, her stomach lurched. There were fresh bruises on his face. She ignored the state of him. She rushed at him and threw her arms around his neck. He staggered slightly backward with the force of her weight, but he wrapped his arms around her and hugged her back with a fierceness that took her by surprise.

“I was so worried!” she told him in a rush. She didn’t release him. Instead, she tightened her arms around him and buried her face in his dark hair. “I thought something had happened to you.”

She pulled back suddenly to look at him. His expression was so serious, her pulse leapt. “My father–” he began. At the same moment, she said, “Your father–“

“Where have you been?” she demanded.

He sighed and stepped away from her. “Remembering. Figuring out who I was and why someone wants to kill me.” He sat down on the rickety chair in front of the desk. His expression was grimmer than Petra had ever seen it. “It wasn’t too hard to figure out once I remembered.”

Her breath hissed out through her teeth. “Do you remember everything now?”

He hung his head. “Yeah. Most of it. Not everything, I think. Just…enough. Bits and pieces.” He looked up at her with haunted eyes. “I don’t want to remember the rest. It hit me like a shot. I think…I think I might have been trying to avoid remembering before.” He sighed. “I really wanted to believe I was one of you, Petra.”

She was surprised. “You would prefer it to being the prince?”

He snorted wryly. “Prince? Yeah. I would have preferred to have been a decent person, not who I was. I would rather have been poor and orphaned. At least you made me believe I was good.”

She didn’t know what to say to this. He looked different than she’d ever seen him. A terrible storm raged behind his grey eyes. She didn’t know what was going on in his head. She’d almost thought she knew him once. She understood now she didn’t know anything about him at all. Grey was gone. She wondered if he was still there somewhere, in the back of Dante’s mind. She hoped he was.

“So what happened? I thought you went home. Why are you back here?” Her stomach flipped a little. Had he missed her? Had he wanted to see her?

“Before it all came back, I remembered my father. I remembered him threatening me. He said he would rather see me dead than see me turn into the man I had become. I didn’t know it was my father then, but now I understand. I think I was trying to tell myself something then. I shouldn’t have gone back there before I understood everything.”

“Do you understand it now?”

He shook his head. “No. Not really, but I think I’m starting to. He wanted me to be more…like him. He wanted me to work with him and learn what he does all day. I refused. I didn’t want….well, I didn’t want to do anything. I just wanted to be free. I wanted to drink and gamble and…” He sighed. “I think we both know what kind of person I was, or you wouldn’t have done what you did.”

“Grey–“

“It’s okay, Petra. You don’t have to explain. I understand all too well now.”

“What happened?”

“I went home to talk to my father. I don’t know what I planned to do. I thought it would all make sense if I just went home. But I was attacked as soon as I arrived.”

Petra lifted her eyebrows. “By your father?”

“No. I didn’t see his face. He came at me in the dark, but I would have known my father if it had been home. It was the man who attacked me in the alley. The one who came looking for me at the compound. I’m sure. “

“His name is Saer.”

“Saer?” He frowned as though he knew the name. “I’ve heard of him. I think I’ve heard of him.”

“Do you know who he is?” Her pale eyes were intense. Grey stared back at her with an equally grim expression.

Finally, he nodded. “I know who he is.”

“I’m sorry, Grey. He works for your father.”

“Yeah.” He closed his eyes in resignation. “I know what you’re trying to say, Petra. It’s okay. I had already worked it out. I don’t think there was any way he could have gotten into the house past the Marshals.”

“What are we going to do?”

He shook his head. “I don’t know.” He smiled wanly. “Any ideas?”

She sighed. “We need some kind of proof. But…I don’t know what good it will do. Your father owns everyone. He owns the city. It’s not like we can take it to a higher authority. He’s the only game in town.”

“But…if it’s enough…maybe we can get enough and then we can let everyone know. We can turn the entire city against him. Even his own people. There are enough of them. If they all move against him, he will not be able to withstand it, even with his Marshals and Nobles.”

She lifted her eyebrows in surprise. “But how? We’ll need a lot of proof. People know what he is. It only makes them more afraid to do anything about it.”

Grey looked at her seriously. “You’re the one who can find anything, aren’t you? Can’t you come up with something that will change their minds? Something they have to do something about?”

Petra frowned. “Maybe. If he records things on his computer, there might be an electronic trail.”

Grey considered this. “There could be. He does a lot of work on the computer. He’s always in front of it when he isn’t out in the streets doing press conferences.”

“I’ve trued to get into his system and see his files, but I haven’t been able to crack them,” she admitted. “He has some very serious security.”

“What if I can help?”

“What do you mean?”

“I know about him. I know a little about the system, though I didn’t spend much time at all actually learning about it. Still, I might be able to give you enough information you’ll be able to get in.”

“It’s worth a try, anyway.”

He sighed and stood up. He pushed his hands through his long, dark hair. “Petra, this is dangerous. I still shouldn’t be here. I’m putting you all in danger by being here. And if my father’s people catch you…”

She moved toward him and clutched his hand in hers. “I know what the risk is, but I’m not letting you go again. Saer found you again. In your own home. You could have died. You’re not safe there, and you really aren’t safe in the streets.” She tugged on his hand to pull him closer and laid a hand on his cheek. For a moment, he flinched back from her. Her breath caught, and she dropped her hand. Her stomach sank a little. Then he gripped her shoulders and pulled her closer to him. She sighed. “Grey, when you disappeared, I thought the rebels might have you. If you leave here, they could get their hands on you. And they will do much, much worse to you than I….than I planned to do.”

She braced herself for his renewed outrage, but it didn’t come. Instead, his brow furrowed thoughtfully. “Who is it, Petra? Who did father take away from you? They must be important if you would go so far as to kidnap me to trade for them.”

“My brother. Ren. He was put away for treason.”

“He was innocent, wasn’t he?”

“Yes. He was innocent. Most of them are innocent.”

Grey nodded. “If we do this–expose my father–I will help you get him back. I’ll help you get everyone back. What’s happening in this city isn’t right. It shouldn’t be this way. No one should make people live this way, in terror for their lives for making the wrong move or annoying the wrong person. My father…he is horrible.” He looked away. His jaw worked, and he looked so unhappy, her heart lurched. “I was horrible, Petra. I understand that now. I don’t blame you for what you did. I can’t really even blame the people who want me dead.”

She shook her head fiercely. “That isn’t you now. It’s not the way you are now. You understand now. You’re different than you were.”

He chuckled wryly. “Imagine a blow to the head fixing all my personality problems.”

She didn’t smile. “I wish it were that simple.”

“It helped me get perspective, anyway. I know now that we have to do something about all this.”

“But not at the expense of your life.”

“From what I remember, before I lost my memory, before you and all of this–thinking I was one of you–my life wasn’t worth much. Even my own father didn’t think it was worth anything.”

Petra sighed. She wrapped her arms around his neck. She expected him to flinch away from her again, but he didn’t. He pulled her into a hug and rested his cheek against her hair. “Okay. Let’s do it. If there is something to find, we’ll find it.”

She drew away from him and sat down on the floor. She pulled her laptop toward her and flipped it open. She smirked at him.

“If someone’s going to bring down King Scarlet, it’s going to be us. Let’s get to work.”

***

“Petra.”

She rose to look over his shoulder at the laptop screen. “What is it?”

He looked up at her. His eyes were stormy. “I think I found something interesting.”

“What is it?”

“It’s a list of people in the city.”

“What people?”

“I’m not entirely sure. People who oppose Scarlet, maybe. Or people who have something he wants.”

“Are any of them prisoners?”

“No. There is a separate list of all the prisoners.” His jaw tightened. “It is so, so long. It’s amazing there’s room to house them all.”

“Well, half the city is burnt out or abandoned. Most of the citizens died, ran or are living in communes like this one. There are probably plenty of places to keep prisoners.” Her heart leapt. “Is there a list of where all the prisoners are being held?”

He shook his head. “No. I wish there was. There are probably separate lists for each of the prisons. It’s not something my dad would keep track of. Someone else would care of that for him. He tries to keep his hands clean when he can.”

“Damn. Not too clean, I hope. That would have been helpful. We could have just staged an attack on one place and gotten Ren out of there.”

“It would not have changed anything else. It would only have put more people in danger.”

She sighed. “I know. You’re right. It’s selfish of me to think it. It’s not the way. So, this list might be a list of people he intends to imprison?”

“Maybe. Or a list of people he is watching out for. People who are probably in danger.”

“Let me see.”

He leaned away so she could see the screen over his shoulder. She scanned the list of names. It was long. She recognized some of them. In fact, she recognized a lot of them. “I know some of these people. They’re business owners, mostly. But some of them are just regular people.”

“They must have some kind of power or influence. My father needs to keep the balance of power with himself and his people. Anyone who gathers too much is usually shut down. He puts his own people into these businesses and positions. It’s the way he’s been slowly taking over from the beginning.”

“So these are people who are not his. They’re people who might join the rebels if they had a good enough reason?”

“Or they’re suspected members of the Uprising. There’s no way to know why any of them are on this list; there isn’t even a title. I found it buried in a file without name. It was just a string of random numbers.” He sighed. “These people could interest him for any reason. I wouldn’t know. He never talked about any of that with me. There isn’t any proof of anything with just this.” He glanced at her. “You? Have you found anything to connect this with the Uprising?”

Petra shook her head. “I’m not a member of the Uprising. I don’t know who is involved, so I can’t be sure whether it’s connected to them or not. It might just be people he considers worth watching.” She frowned at the screen. “What about any indication that things are happening to the people on the list? Have any of them been imprisoned or killed or anything? If there is, it could change everything. If we could spread the word that the King is plans who is being imprisoned or who disappears ahead of time, it could compel the people who are too afraid to come forward to side with the rebels. It might convince them it’s time to start protecting themselves. It would give the Uprising an advantage.”

She wasn’t sure this was exactly what she wanted, but right now, between the King and the Uprising, she would take the rebels. At least they didn’t imprison innocent people.

Grey nodded. “People need to see this. They are in danger, whether they are guilty of treason or not. They all know what my father is, but they like to pretend it isn’t going to happen to them. It doesn’t matter what you do—if he wants something, he takes it.”

“Being guilty has never made a difference in Razor City. Everyone is just too scared to admit it. They think it won’t happen to them if they keep quiet and out of his way. It’s a lie. And it isn’t just the people on this list. Ren had nothing he wanted. He had nothing at all, but your father took him anyway.”

Grey sighed. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what he did to draw his attention. It isn’t only the people who threaten the balance of power who are in danger in this city. It doesn’t matter if they’ve done anything or not.”

“People should be able to speak out against their leader. They shouldn’t have to live in constant fear of being put on this list.”

“That’s what we’re doing here, Petra. We will do everything we can to find a way to stop it. I’ll look for some kind of trail indicating something is happening to these people once they’ve ended up on the list. It is not my father who accuses people of treason; he just decides what to do with them. It is typically the Nobles who make the recommendations.”

“So there could be some communication between him and the Nobles that indicates what he actually using this list to do. He might be giving his people the names and letting them do the dirty work. Or he could be having them killed. People disappear all the time. They’re never seen again to tell anyone what happened to them.”

“We might be able to find enough to point to intent. We just need to show the city what he is doing and let the mob mentality take it from there.”

“I think they already know.” Grey’s voice was grim.

“Yes, they know. But people are too afraid of doing anything about it. The idea is to get enough people to move against him and force him to make changes.”

“You mean by taking him out of power?”

“It might be the only way, Grey.” She looked at him seriously. “Are you prepared to go that far?”

He considered. Then he slowly shook his head. “I don’t really have a choice, do I? I’m on this list now.”

“Are you?”

He rolled his eyes. “Figuratively speaking.” He turned back to the screen. “There might be something in his emails that can help us. He does a lot of work that way. Sometimes he doesn’t leave his office for days. He doesn’t go out into the city very often. When he has to talk to someone, it is not typically in person.”

“Okay. Let’s take a look.”

They took turns sorting through Scarlet’s email. It was tedious. He received so many messages a day from citizens, Nobles, Marshals and other city officials near Razor City. Most of them weren’t helpful. Petra was actually surprised at how much work it took to run a city and a business. Scarlet wasn’t just the leader of the city; he controlled most of the products that moved in and out of Razor City. It had been his business before the war and now he had the monopoly.

Scarlet’s business had fallen under scrutiny numerous times before the war. He was rumored to be involved in organized crime and illegal business practices, but no one had never been able to prove it. When the government had fallen and the cities had dissolved into chaos, Scarlet had been the only one with the money, power and influence to take control of the city.

Now, everything was his. And it was time to take it back.

“Here are some messages from some of the Nobles,” Grey said suddenly. “They are accusations of treason. Names and alleged crimes. I sort of assumed there would be something a little more official.”

She leaned over his shoulder to look. “Are any of the accused on the list?”

He shook his head. “Not that I can tell. They aren’t on the list now, but these are old. The names might have been on the list before. It must be updated frequently. All the names on it now are live.”

“We need to see who else has that list. This must be the master. Has he sent it out to anyone?”

Grey rose. “You want to take a look?”

She sat down. It didn’t take her long to find it. “Here it is.”

“Who did he send it to.”

“He didn’t. Someone sent it to him.”

“Who?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know. The email address is just random numbers.”

“Can you find out who it belongs to?”

“I can try.” After several moments, she cursed. “It’s anonymous. I can’t tell who it belongs to. There’s no name on the account or any indication who it belongs to.”

“What about the carrier?”

“It’s just a general internet server. It’s nothing. There is a location, though. It’s Razor City.”

He snorted. “Of course it is.”

“But it could still help us. We don’t need to know who it is to track what he’s saying to the King.” She narrowed her eyes and scrolled through the messages. “He sent the original list. Every few days, he sends a new name.”

“Can you follow a trail through the emails to find out what happens after Scarlet gets a new name? They’re probably are going on the list, but he could be sending names from the list to the Nobles one at a time.”

It took several moments. Finally, she found something. “Here’s one. Stan Riker. The anonymous email sent his name to Scarlet.

Did he say anything about him?”

No. Just the name”

Grey frowned. “Have you ever heard of him? Do you know who he is?”

“No. But about two weeks later, one of the Nobles emails Scarlet and accuses Riker of being caught with rebel papers.”

“But did my dad send the name to the Noble somewhere?”

She shook her head. “No. It was just sent to the King both times.”

“Could it be a list of people who are going to be accused?”

“Maybe. Who knows which comes first. Still, this proves he knows who is going to be accused before it happens. It could be the anonymous email is sending the names to the Nobles one at a time. We aren’t seeing those emails.”

“Can you break into the anonymous email?”

“No. I tried. It’s secure. Whoever it belongs to, they know what they are doing. They know how to stay anonymous. They must have a good reason.”

“Okay. But this is still good. We have a list of people who are in danger. It is only a matter of time before they go down.”

“Right.” Petra frowned. “Here’s something interesting.”

“What?”

“There’s another list.”

“What is it?”

“More names. They aren’t the same names. They don’t correspond to any of the emails. But I recognize a few of them.”

“From what?”

“They died.”

“How?”

“Different ways. One of them died when his house caught on fire. Another fell down the stairs. Some of them were killed by outlaws in the outlands or in some dangerous back alley.”

“And they’re on the other list?”

“Yeah. The list showed up and then a few of them died.”

“Are they all dead?”

“No. Some of them are alive. Sometimes people end up on the list and nothing happens to them. It could be coincidence.”

“Yeah, right. My father could be watching them or something. Maybe they aren’t being killed or accused until they prove to be a threat of some kind.”

“That makes sense. If the King was killing or imprisoning everyone without reason, he wouldn’t be able to pretend he was a good leader.”

Grey nodded. “It’s still good. It might still be enough if we can convince people to listen. It’s an obvious pattern. We could send it to the media. We could get it out to the people.”

Petra shook her head. “No. It won’t work. He’s been implicated by the media in the past. It didn’t do any good. Nothing changed. He owns all of them.”

“Then we have to go to the people he doesn’t own. I know there are rebels in the outlands. The Uprising is real.”

“Yeah. They haven’t mobilized yet, but I know they’re planning to attack soon.”

“Do you know anything about them?”

“No. I didn’t want to know. Despite what people think, the compound isn’t affiliated with them.”

“Do you know anyone who is involved with them? Can you get to them?”

She was silent a long moment. “Yes. I think I can. I know someone who works with them. We’ll have to be careful, though. With you involved…I don’t know how they are going to react.”

“Then we’ll have to prepare them. Do you trust the rebel you know?”

“Yes. I trust her completely.”

He frowned. “Then why haven’t you become involved with the Uprising?”

“I didn’t want to get involved. I just want my brother back.”

“And now?”

“Now…things are different. If we’re going to do this, we have to take it all the way. I can’t go back to the way it was. Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to.”

Grey nodded. “Will you set up a meeting with the Uprising.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

It didn’t sound like a good idea, but eventually she nodded. “Okay. I’ll do it.”

***

Beth stared down at the pile of papers with narrow eyes. She didn’t say anything for several seconds. Her expression was unreadable. She rifled through them again. Finally, she looked up at Petra.

“Well?” Petra demanded.

“Petra…I think this is the first real proof we’ve ever had that Scarlet is setting his people up. Everyone knows he’s doing it, but no one’s ever been able to get anything on him before. Even knowing hasn’t been enough. These are real names. These are real people. Maybe this will finally get people to move against him. This could bring many people to our side.”

“Will it help your people be ready to take him on?”

“What we need are more numbers. Too many people won’t join or are scared, but now…they can finally see they are in real danger. We might finally be able to do something about this, Petra.” She looked at her sharply. “But are you sure?”

“Do we really have any other choice?”

“No. Not really.”

Petra grimaced. “Is it really safe for Dante to meet them?”

“They won’t do anything to him if that’s what you mean. Not with Lux around, anyway. Even the Uprising is afraid of her. He’ll be able to walk away, even if the meeting doesn’t go like he wants it to.”

“So you’ll set it up?”

Beth nodded. “I’ll set it up. Bring these documents. They’ll help.” She pulled out her cell phone and punched up a number. The voice on the other end answered so quickly, Petra didn’t think the phone had had time to ring. “We need to meet. I have some information you will want to see.” She glanced up at Petra as she listened to the person on the other end. She didn’t even say good bye to them. She snapped her phone shut and nodded at Petra. “They’ll meet us.”

“Where?”

“In the outlands. At a bar. It’s where we always meet when we bring someone new. It’s a safe place.” She narrowed her eyes thoughtfully. “I don’t think Dante should come. Just you.”

“He won’t like that.”

“We don’t have a choice. I think it’s safer to keep him here for now.”

Petra sighed, but she didn’t argue. She would rather not place Grey in the line of the Uprising’s fire, even if he was determined to be involved. “I’ll try to convince him. He won’t like it, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for him to be traipsing around the outlands with the rebels just yet, either. I’ll find a way to make him understand.”

He was lying silently on a cot staring up a the ceiling when she poked her head into the office. He hadn’t left the tiny room since he’d snuck back into the safe house, and only the inner circle knew he’d returned. The rest of the kids had never even known he’d ever been there. No one had argued about giving up the only private room to the prince. In fact, they’d insisted. They didn’t need another Shaw, especially now.

Grey shot to his feet to meet her. “Well? What happened? Will they meet with us?”

“Yes, they want to meet. But we’re meeting one of Beth’s contacts first, not the leader. And Beth thinks it’s best if you stay here for now.”

He scowled. She braced herself for a fight. “This is my fight, too, Petra. I want to be involved in this.”

“I know that. But it’s not safe for you to leave here, not yet. If someone in the outlands spots you, we’ll be in for trouble. And we can’t be sure the rebels won’t try to double cross us if they think they can use you to get what they want. You need to stay here until I can be sure it’s safe for you to meet with them.”

His scowl deepened. “What do you expect me to do, then?”

“Sort through more paperwork, I guess. We might be able to get more on him. We could convince more people to mobilize. It’s not people who want to take Scarlet down they need; they have enough of them. They need people who are willing to do something. To fight. Beth thinks the information we’ve found will help push them to act. The Uprising needs more numbers to stage a rebellion if it isn’t going to be crushed before it ever begins.”

Grey sighed. “All right, but I don’t like the idea of you going without me. I won’t be able to protect you if something goes wrong.”

She smiled in amusement. “I’ll be perfectly safe. We’ve been doing things like this since we were hardly big enough to look over a bar. I’ll be with Beth. I trust her. She would not send me into a dangerous situation. I’ll bring Lux, too. She’s a good bodyguard. No one messes with her.”

He didn’t look happy, but he pulled her into a tight hug. “Okay. Just be safe. If it starts to look dangerous, I want you to run. Don’t try to salvage it. I won’t let you get into trouble for me.”

She smiled. “I’ve done pretty well so far keeping myself alive.”

“You’re still young.”

She rolled her eyes. “I’ll be fine. We’ll give them the list and let them take it from there. They will know what to do with it. Maybe we can learn more about what they are planning to do. This probably won’t change it; it will just get them to move more quickly.”

“Just be careful.”

“I will. I’ll see you again soon.”

He pressed his lips to hers. He didn’t move away for a long moment. Her heart thumped wildly in her chest, and she hoped she’d make it back to him in one piece. Despite her confident words, she wasn’t entirely sure Beth was right about her people. She could be walking into a death trap. He didn’t need to know that. When he pulled away, she smiled up at him.

His expression was deadly serious. “You’d better make it out of there, Petra. I did not come back here just to send you out to get killed for my sake.”

She smirked. “No. If I remember right, you came back because you didn’t have anywhere else to go.”

“Yes. That’s pretty much exactly the reason. I feel a whole lot better about all this now. Thanks for pointing it out.”

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