Red Queen (Red Queen, 1)

THE BLACK HOLE IS RECIDING, making room for life again. My body swayed with the movement, and I could feel a machine somewhere. The clashing metal screamed, grinding at high speed in a noise I vaguely recognized. Subway.

The stool under my cheek felt strangely soft but also firm. Not leather or cloth or concrete, I realized, but warm flesh . It moves beneath me, adjusting as my body moves, and my eyes open. What I saw was enough to make me think that I was still dreaming.

Cal sat across the train, his posture stiff and tense, his hands clasped in his lap. He looked straight ahead at the person holding his lap, and in his eyes there was a fire I knew all too well. This carriage impressed him, and his gaze flickered now and then, turning to its lights, windows, and wires. He itched to check, but the person next to him restrained himself from moving an inch.


The revolutionary fighter, scarred and wary, stood nearby. Somehow he survived the massacre beneath the Square. I want to smile, call him. But weakness coursed through me, holding my body in place. I thought of the storm, the battle in the arena, and all the horrors that had come before. Maven. His name makes my heart harden,

twisting it with anger and shame. Everyone can betray anyone.

His rifle was slung across his chest, ready to fire at Cal. There were many more like him, tensely guarding him. They were crushed, injured, and very few, but they still looked menacing. Their eyes never left the fallen prince, watching him like mice to a cat. Then I saw Cal’s wrists bound, cuffed in metal that he could easily melt. But he didn’t do it. Cal just sat there in silence, waiting for something.

When he felt my gaze on him, his eyes turned to me. Life reignited within him.

“Mare,” he muttered, and some of his anger broke out. Part.

My head spun as I tried to stand up, but a comforting hand pushed me back down. “Lie down.” A voice said, a voice I vaguely recognized.

“Kilorn,” I whispered. “I’m here.”

In the midst of my confusion, the young fisherman pushed past the armed guards behind Farley. Kilorn had his own scars now, with dirty bandages on his arms. But he stood tall. And he’s still alive . Just looking at him flooded me with relief.

However, if Kilorn was standing there, with the rest of the guards, then….

My neck twisted sharply, moving to look up at the figure above me. “Who-?”

The face was familiar, a face I knew well. If I hadn’t been lying down, I would definitely have fallen. The shock was too much to bear.

“Am I dead? Are we all dead?”

He came to pick me up. I have died in the arena. This was a hallucination, a dream, a wish, a final thought before death. We have all died.

But my sister shook her head slowly, looking at me with those familiar honey-colored eyes. Shade has always been the most handsome, and death hasn’t changed that.

“You’re not dead, Mare,” he said, his voice as sweet as I remembered. “So do I.”

“How could it be?” was all I could say, leaning back in my seat to observe my brother more closely. He looked the same as I remembered, without the usual wounds of a soldier. Even his brown hair had grown longer, replacing his military-style haircut. I combed his hair with my fingers, to convince myself that his figure was real.

But he’s not the same. Just like I’m not the same.

“The mutation,” I said, letting my hand rest on his arm. “They killed you for it.”

Her eyes seemed to be dancing. “They are trying.”

I didn’t blink, time didn’t pass but he moved at a speed beyond my vision, beyond even someone capable of speed. Now he sits in

across from me, next to Cal who was still handcuffed. It seemed as if he was shifting through space-time, jumping from one place to another in the blink of an eye.

“And failed.” He finished it from his new bench. His smile was wide now, happy to see me staring with his mouth agape. “They said they had killed me, they told the captain that I was dead and my body was burned.” A split second later he was sitting next to me, appearing out of thin air. Teleportation . “But they weren’t fast enough. Nothing is fast enough.”

I tried to nod, I tried to understand his abilities, his simple existence , but I couldn’t understand more than his arms around me. Shades. Still alive and just like me.

“What about the other? Mom, Dad—” But Shade silenced me with a smile.

“They are safe and waiting,” he said. His voice cracked a little, overcome with emotion. “We will meet them soon.”

My heart swells imagining it. But like all my happiness, all my joy and all my hopes, it didn’t last. My gaze fell on Barisan who held his weapon at the ready, on Kilorn’s wounds, on Farley’s tense face and Cal’s bound hands. Cal, who has suffered a lot, is released from one prison after another.

“Let her go.” I owe him my life, more than my life. At least I can give him some comfort here. But no one moved at my words, not even Cal himself.

To my surprise, Cal answered before Farley. “They won’t let me go. And they really shouldn’t have let me go. In fact, you should close my eyes altogether, if you really want to be thorough.”

Even though he has been humiliated, thrown out of his own life, Cal cannot change who he really is. The figure of the warrior was still in him. “Cal, shut up. You’re not a threat to anyone.”

With a snort, Cal tilted his head, gesturing at the carriage containing the armed rebels. “It seems they think otherwise.”

“Not a threat to us, I mean.” I added, leaning back in my seat. “He saved me while I was there, even after what I did. And after what Maven did to you—”

“Don’t say his name again.” The growl was terrifying, it made me shudder, and I didn’t miss Farley’s hand tightening around his rifle.

His words slipped out through gritted teeth. “No matter what he does to you, the prince is not on our side. And I won’t sacrifice what’s left of us for your petty romance.”

Romance. We wince at the word. There’s nothing between us anymore. Not after what we’ve done to each other, and what’s been done to us. No matter how much we might want it.

“We will fight on, Mare, but the Silvers have betrayed us before. We won’t believe them

Again.” Kilorn’s words were softer, a balm to try to help me understand. But his eyes flashed at Cal. Of course he remembered the torture of being in the cell and the terrible sight of frozen blood. “He could have been a valuable prisoner.”

They don’t know Cal like I do. They didn’t know that he could destroy them all, that he could escape in the blink of an eye if he really wanted to. So, why is he silent? When his eyes met mine, Cal somehow answered my question without needing to speak. The hurt I saw radiating from him was enough to break my heart. He’s tired. He was broken. And he didn’t want to fight anymore.

Part of me doesn’t want to either. Part of me wishes I could surrender to the chains, to the captivity and silence. But I’ve lived a life like that, in the mud, in the shadows, in cells, in silk dresses. I will never submit again. I will never stop fighting.

Likewise with Kilorn. So did Farley. We will never stop.

“Other people like us….” My voice shakes, but I’ve never felt so strong. “People like myself and Shade.”

Farley nodded and his hand patted his pocket. “I still have the list. I know their names.”

“So does Maven.” I replied spontaneously. Cal flinched at the name. “He will use the blood base to track them, then hunt them all down.”

Even though the train swayed and shook, winding through dark lanes, I forced myself to stand up. Shade tried to support me, but I slapped his hand away. I have to stand alone.

“He couldn’t find them before us.” I lifted my chin, feeling the pulse of the train. That electric current ignited my spirit. “He can’t.”

When Kilorn walked up to me, his face was serious and determined; the bruises, cuts, and bandages seemed to fade. I felt like I saw the dawn dawning in his eyes.

“He won’t be able to.”

A strange warmth washed over me. Warmth like the sun, even though we are in the bowels of the earth. That warmth was as familiar to me as my own lightning, reaching out to wrap me in an embrace that neither of us could have. Even though they call Cal my enemy, even though they fear him, I let his warmth touch my skin, and I let his eyes burn mine.

Our shared memories flashed before my eyes, showcasing every second of the time we spent together. But now our friendship is gone, replaced by the one thing we still have in common.

Our hatred of Maven.

I didn’t need to be a whisperer to know that we shared one thought.

I will kill him .[]

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