By: Ally Condie

“Since they gave them to us on our way here,” I said. “What about you?”

“The same,” Vick answered. “We should have told the others.”

“I know,” I said. “I was stupid. I thought we’d have a little more time.”

“Time,” Vick said, “is what we don’t have.”

The world shattered outside and someone else started screaming.

“I wish I had a gun that worked,” Vick said. “I’d blow everyone on those air ships away. Pieces of them would come down like fireworks.”

“Finished,” Vick says now, folding up his foilware into a sharp silver square. “We’d better get back to work.”

“I wonder why they don’t just give us blue tablets,” I say. “Then they wouldn’t have to bother with our meals.”

Vick looks at me as if I’m crazy. “You don’t know?”

“Know what?” I ask.

“The blue tablets don’t save you. They stop you. If you take one, you’ll slow down and stay where you are until someone finds you or you die waiting. Two will finish you outright.”

I shake my head and look up at the sky, but I’m not looking for anything. I only look to see the blue. I hold my hand up and block out the sun so I can see the sky around it better. No clouds.

“Sorry,” Vick says, “but it’s true.”

I glance over at Vick. I think I see concern on his stone-hard face. It’s so ludicrous, all of it, that I start to laugh, and Vick laughs too. “I should have known,” I say. “If something happened to the Society, they wouldn’t want anyone to live on without them.”

A few hours later we hear a beep from the miniport Vick carries. He pulls it from his belt loop and checks the screen. Vick’s the only decoy who has a miniport—a device roughly the same size as a datapod. Miniports, however, can be used for communication. A datapod only stores information. Vick keeps the miniport with him most of the time, but now and then—like when he tells new decoys the truth about the village and the guns—he hides the port somewhere for a little while.

We’re pretty sure that the Society tracks our location by the miniport. We don’t know if they can listen in on us too, the way they can on the larger ports. Vick thinks so. He thinks the Society listens all the time. I don’t think they care.

“What do they want?” I ask Vick as he reads the message on his screen.

“We’re moving,” he says.

Others fall in line with us as we walk to meet the ships that land silently outside of the village. The Officers act hurried, as usual. They don’t like to spend much time out here. I’m not sure if it’s because of us or because of the Enemy. I wonder who they think is the bigger threat.

He’s young, but the Officer in charge of this transfer reminds me of the one who used to be in charge of us on the Hill back in Oria. His expression says How did I end up here? What am I supposed to do with these people?

“So,” he says, looking out at us. “Up on the plateau. What was that? What happened there? The casualties wouldn’t have been nearly so bad if you’d all stayed down in the village.”

“There was snow up there this morning and they went up to get it,” I say. “We’re always thirsty.”

“You’re sure that’s the only reason they were up there?”

“There aren’t many reasons to do anything,” Vick says. “Hunger. Thirst. Not dying. That’s all there is. So if you don’t believe us, take your pick from the other two.”

“Maybe they hiked up there for the view,” the Officer suggests.

Vick laughs, and it’s not a good sound. “Where are the replacements?”

“They’re on the ship,” the Officer says. “We’re going to take you all to a new village, and we’ll give you more supplies.”

“And more water,” Vick says. Though he’s unarmed and at the mercy of the Officer he sounds like he’s the one giving the orders. The Officer smiles. The Society isn’t human but the people who work for it sometimes are.

“And more water,” the Officer says.

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