Home > Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy #1)(15)

Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy #1)(15)
Pierce Brown

“May I have my hand back now?” Harmony asks.

“If you take off your mask. Otherwise, I’m keeping it.”

She laughs and strips away her mask. Her face is day and night—the right side a ragged and distended mess of skin running and folding together in smooth scar rivers. A steam burn. A familiar sight, but not on women. Rare for a woman to be on a drillteam.

Yet it is the unburned side of her face that startles. She is beautiful, more beautiful even than Eo. Skin soft, pale as milk, bones prominent and delicate. Yet she looks so cold, so angry and cruel. Her bottom teeth are uneven and her nails poorly maintained. She has knives in her boots. I can tell by the way she flinched down when I grabbed her hand.

The weakling, Ralph, is unremarkably ugly—dark face like a hatchet, teeth all ajar and grimy like the tubes in the Flush. He stares out the tumbler’s window hatch as we rattle and roll through abandoned tunnels till we reach lit paved tunnelroads meant for fast driving. I do not know these Reds, and though they have the Red Sigil emblazoned on their hands, I do not trust them. They are not of Lambda or Lykos. Might as well be Silvers.

Eventually I glimpse other utility vehicles and tumblers out the hatch. I don’t know where we are, yet that bothers me less than the swelling sadness in my chest. The further we ride and the more time I’m given to my thoughts, the worse the pain becomes. I finger my wedding band. Eo is still dead. She’s not waiting for me at the end of this ride. Why did I survive when she did not? Why did I pull her feet so hard? Could she have lived too? My guts feel like a black hole. A terrible weight compresses my chest, and I ache to just jump from the tumbler into the path of a utility vehicle. Death is easy when you’ve already tried to find it. But I don’t jump; I sit with Harmony and Ralph. Eo wanted more for me. She died so I could be more than another martyr, and then I killed myself. Or tried. The shame eats at me. I clench the scarlet headband in my fist.

The tunnelroad widens slightly when we come to a checkpoint manned by dirty Tinpots in worndown gear. The electric gate isn’t even charged. They let the tumbler ahead of us through after scanning a panel on its side. Then it’s our turn and I’m shifting uncomfortably in my seat right along with Ralph. Harmony chuckles disdainfully as the grey hairedTinpot scans the side of the tumbler and waves us through the gate.

“We have a passcode. There’s no brains in slaves. Mine Tinpots are idiots. It’s the Grey elites, or the Obsidian monsters you watch out for. But they don’t waste their time down here.”

I am trying to convince myself that this all is not some Gold trick, that Harmony and Ralph are not enemies, when we pull off the main tunnelroad into a cul-de-sac of utility warehouses not much larger than the Common. Harsh sulfur lights hang down from utility fixtures. Half the bulbs are burned out. One flickers on and off above a garage near a warehouse marked with a queer symbol done in strange paint. We steer into the garage. The door closes and Harmony motions for me to get out of the tumbler.

“Home sweet home,” she says. “Now time to meet Dancer.”

8

Dancer

Dancer looks through me. He’s near enough my height, which is rare. But he’s thick and terribly old, maybe in his forties. White swirls from his temples. A dozen twin scars mark his neck. I’ve seen their sort before. Pitviper bites. The arm on the left side of his body hangs limp. Nerve damage. But his eyes arrest me; they are brighter than most, swirling with patterns of true red, not rust red. He has a fatherly smile.

“You must be wondering who we are,” Dancer says gently. He’s big but his voice is easy. Eight Reds are with him, all men except for Harmony, and they watch him with adoring eyes. All miners, I think, each with the scarred, strong hands of our kind. They move with the grace of our people. No doubt some were jumpers and boasters, as we call those who run along the walls and perform the flips at dances. Any Helldivers?

“He’s not wondering.” Harmony takes time with the words, rolling them along her tongue. She squeezes Dancer’s hand as she passes around him to look at me. “Bloodydamn runt pegged it an hour ago.”

“Ah.” Dancer smiles softly at her. “Of course he did, otherwise Ares wouldn’t have asked us to risk extracting him here. Do you know where here is, Darrow?”

“It doesn’t matter,” I murmur. I look around at the walls, the men, the swaying lights. Everything is so cold, so dirty. “What matters is …” I fail to finish my own sentence. A thought of Eo severs my voice. “What matters is that you want something from me.”

“Yes, that matters,” says Dancer. His hand touches my shoulder. “But that can wait. I’m surprised you’re standing. The wounds on your back are sullied. You’ll need antibac and skinres to stop the scarring.”

“Scars don’t matter,” I say. I stare at the two blood drops that trickle from my shirttail to the floor. My wounds reopened when I climbed from the grave. “Eo is … dead, yes?”

“Yes. She is. We couldn’t save her, Darrow.”

“Why not?” I ask.

“We just couldn’t.”

“Why not?” I repeat. I glare up at him, glare at his followers and hiss the words one by one. “You saved me. You could have saved her. She is the one you would have wanted. The bloodydamn martyr. She cared about all this. Or does Ares only need Sons, not Daughters?”

“Martyrs are a dime a dozen,” Harmony yawns.

I slip forward like a serpent and grab her around the throat; waves of anger ripple through my face till it goes numb and I feel tears welling behind my eyes. Scorchers whine as they’re primed around me. One jams into the back of my neck. I feel its cold muzzle.

“Let her go!” someone shouts. “Do it, boy!”

I spit at them, shake Harmony once and toss her aside. She crouches on the floor, hacking, and then a knife glimmers in her hand as she rises.

Dancer stumbles between us. “Stop it! Both of you! Darrow, please!”

“Your girl was a dreamer, boy,” Harmony spits at me from Dancer’s other side. “As worthless as a flame over water …”

“Harmony, shut your bloodydamn gob,” Dancer barks. “Put those damn things away.” The scorchers go quiet. A tense silence follows and he leans in close to speak with me. His voice lowers. My breath is fast. “Darrow, we’re friends. We’re friends. Now, I can’t answer for Ares—why he couldn’t help us save your girl; I am just one of his hands. I can’t wash away the pain. I can’t bring your wife back to you. But, Darrow, look at me. Look at me, Helldiver.” I do. Right into those blood-red eyes. “I can’t do many things. But I can bring you justice.”

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