“I said go,” Krane repeated. The muscles in her arms were beginning to loosen, to relax in uncertainty.
“I want to ask. I’d like to know,” Amma said, averting her gaze. She shifted her feet, as if she too wanted to leave, but something was stopping her. “Are you lost? Or are you sneaking around like me? You let me do what I came here to do, so I want to help you. Do you need to get back to the barracks?”
“No. Please leave before I change my mind and decide to report you.”
A smirk snuck across the girl’s face. “That doesn’t seem like something you are going to do. I bet you know as well as I do that even wardens aren’t allowed back here on their own.”
“I know the rules. Why won’t you just go?”
“Why won’t you loosen up? We’re both here without permission. You’re not in charge of me, you know. We can help each other.” She lifted her chin and raised her eyebrows. With her spine straight, she was taller than Krane, her long, thin limbs lifting her high above Krane’s five and a half feet.
“I don’t need your help,” Krane said.
“I don’t believe you. Now tell me your name. I told you mine.”
“Mariángel,” Krane spat out, submitting to Amma’s unrelenting pressure. It was her grandmother’s name, the first that came to her mind. “Now will you go, please?”
Amma’s eyes lit up, her smile shining briefly and smugly. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?”
With a slight, ambivalent shrug, Krane shook her head. “Are you going to leave now?” She said, sounding even to herself a broken record.
“If you really want me to.”
Krane paused, then let out a sigh. She lowered her head, looking down at her black boots, new and shining. In a few days, they would be covered in mud from training outside—if she could find her way out of here.
“You know, Marie,” Amma said with a smile, and Krane cringed at the name, spoken in such an Americanized, almost teasing way. “We’re both being secretive, which means that neither of us has to be, to each other, at least. Since we know we’re not going to tell anybody we were here.”
The girl’s optimism, her innocence, was starting to irritate Krane. When Amma took a few more steps closer, Krane stiffened and backed up against the wall. She could feel her cheeks going hot with frustration and fear.
“You’ve got me curious now,” said Amma, but before she could continue pestering Krane, the light above the door leading to the locks switched from red to amber, and the sound of air rushing in to destroy the vacuum boomed.
“Hide,” Krane yelped, lurching forward and pushing Amma into the storage cell opposite her. Krane ducked into room twenty-one, watching Amma across the hallway as her eyes grew wide with terror and she crouched behind the boxes. Only the top of her blonde head was visible over the crates of lost toys and trinkets.
The door hissed open. From her hiding place, Krane could see Clark enter the room but hold the door open with his bulky, muscular arm. His hard expression, his lips tight and his forehead creased, was betrayed by the shaking fingers of his free hand, his wrists shivering violently with fear.
Krane stepped out from behind the crates.
“Clark,” she said in a muted voice, using his name instead of his title, as was expected from a trainee. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. You left me there.”
“Jesus, Decleric,” he blurted. The lines in his face fell into momentary relief. “We need to get out of here.”
He grabbed her arm and yanked her through the door, giving her only a brief moment to shoot her gaze toward Amma’s location. She was invisible, still hidden.
The door closed behind them, and they were safe in the locks.
“You breathe one breath in there,” Clark said, gripping Krane tightly by both shoulders, “and everyone in this fortress could be dead within days. Do you really want to have that on your conscience?” Clark’s eyes darted back and forth between Krane’s, and she could feel his own breath, heaving and Immune, warming her collar bones.
“No sir,” she said.“Then we need to get out of here.” He released his grip on her shoulders and began marching, which quickly morphed into a quiet run, down the dark hall. Shaking, Krane followed.