The government is on the verge of perfecting its loyalty serum, and Terra knows exactly what that means—the agents will have absolute control. Terra has survived the labor camp, the agents, and the soldiers who hound her as she brings nomads to the water’s edge. But now she faces her most daunting challenge yet: she must return to the colony to ask the council—and her father—to help her destroy the loyalty serum. With the aid of old friends and unexpected allies, Terra races toward a confrontation that will decide her fate on the Burn forever.
The soldiers shrug and look around for a few seconds more before disappearing across the grove to cover more ground. The helicopter lifts into the air and flies above the forest. Our tree sways under its down draft. My foot loses its grip on the branch and I slip, my hands grappling the biting bark as my legs flail out from under me, and Jack catches my hand just in time to keep me from falling. We stay that way—me with one hand on the branch, Jack clinging to my other hand and the tree for all he’s worth—until the sweat is pouring into my eyes and both of our muscles are screaming for relief.
I haven’t heard the soldiers for probably five minutes, and the helicopter sounds at least two miles away. I finally let myself relax and Jack pulls me back up onto the branch, and I let my cheek rest on the bark. I close my eyes and take a deep breath.
Jack sits down on the branch, his legs dangling on either side as he leans against the trunk. “I knew it would be like this. I knew it would be. I just didn’t imagine it would start so soon. That first week in the colony, I checked my back after leaving and entering every room.” His shoulders slump. “It was so strange to feel safe again. Jessa teased me every time I did it.” He looks at me and arches an eyebrow. “For being twins, you two are completely different. After a couple of weeks, I finally relaxed. I’m going to pick up the habit again pretty quickly.”
I nod, and the tree bark scratches my cheek. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop checking my back.
Annie Oldham grew up with an insatiable desire to read and came away with the insatiable desire to write. Away from her writing, she’s the mother of the three most adorable girls in the world, has the best husband in the world, and lives in the hottest place in the world (not really, but Phoenix sure feels like it).
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